Tackling the Food Waste Issue: DayOld's Surplus Solution

Welcome to London – a food market on every corner and more pop-up/casual dining options than you can shake a stick at.

Crisps even seem to count as a meal these days.

We are a city of Instagram foodie obsessives, advocates of “clean eating” and die-hard fans of avocados and quinoa. 

^ my instagram account is basically just food

Organic isn’t enough anymore, that’s old news.

We want the locally sourced, made by hand kind of stuff that laughs in the face of globalisation.

We prefer to go to independent restaurants, who champion quality and authenticity instead of those slightly cheaper, carbon copies.

It’s ridiculous the amount of money we spend on eating out and speciality coffee – but who can blame us when we’ve been dubbed “Generation Rent”. Is there really much point trying to save our money for grown up sensible things when it’s so out of reach?

Whatever your opinion on that issue it’s clear that today we are thinking more about what we eat than ever before. And if this plays such an important part of our lives, then it makes sense that we are starting to think about the food that we don’t eat.

With the realisation of just how much food we throw away each year (that’s a third by the way) people are starting to understand that maybe we have a problem and it’s time to do something about it. 

For example, tackling the huge wastage at the beginning of the supply chain with initiatives like Asda’s Wonky Veg Box which rescues otherwise wasted fruit and veg. That's because it doesn’t meet the “perfection” standard enforced by supermarkets, standards that result in 30 to 40 percent of perfectly edible food being lost, according to The Guardian.

But it’s not just the supermarkets to blame, we are all guilty of buying more than we can eat or finding that we are just too busy to cook the food we have bought. Deliveroo anyone?

Whilst batch cooking on a Sunday afternoon could help us be organised and waste less – there’s also the issue that is nobody’s fault at all. The food that is simply left on the supermarket shelves, which of course ends up in landfill. 500,000 tonnes of it in fact with 25 percent of this still being edible to animals or humans.

This 25 percent – why is it not being fed to the 8 million people in the UK who struggle to put food on the table or helping those who relied on emergency food supplies 1 million times last year?

The fact is, it is just too expensive to redistribute the food to the people that need it. Crazy I know, but no one is willing to foot the transport costs, storage costs and when the government subsidises renewable energy initiatives- it’s much easier and cheaper for supermarkets to let the food be used for bio-fuel than give it to actual human beings.

But thank goodness for people like Day Old who are trying to save surplus baked goods from this wasteful end – specifically the amazing breads and cakes from Gail’s Bakeries which never deserve to be thrown away!

Hmm collecting fancy artisan breads and pastries? This sounds all very middle class – is this really solving the issue?

Actually, bread is the worst offender when it comes to chucking stuff away. We get rid of 44 percent – which according to Toast (who make beer out of discarded loaves) would be enough to lift 26 million people out of malnutrition. Ok – so they can’t all live on baked goods but you get the idea.

And this is where Day Old (and it’s volunteers) come in, taking the surplus from places like Gail’s that would otherwise be destined for the bin. The rescued sourdoughs and pastries and indulgent muffins then get sold the next day at an event or company that have requested Day Old’s services. This gives Gail’s day old (hence the name) but still perfectly edible and delicious artisan goods a new lease of life at pop-up events, offices and supper clubs across London.

The profit from these events goes to charities that help tackle hunger like Magic Breakfasts who provide healthy school breakfasts to malnourished children in disadvantaged areas of the UK. So Day Old are helping the people who need it and reducing food wastage at the same time! It's the perfect social enterprise solution.

And the very fact that it’s artisan, with that automatic association of high-quality and expertise, they are also helping change perception of what is considered “old” and “inedible”. 

Always packaged and presented as beautifully as you would find them at Gail’s – none of the “artisan” quality is lost. They might not be day-made fresh but they’re still the same great tasting, expertly baked sweet treats we go crazy for.

And hey, if your bread ever starts to get a bit tough – toast it, throw it in the freezer or drizzle some water over it (my secret Italian tip) and it’ll be (almost) as good as new.

If we stop labeling this stuff as second rate and start eating it instead we might just stop wasting so much of it.

It just makes perfect sense to me. It's a matter of re-distribution and changing perceptions.

I grew up in a house where food was bought to be eaten - we couldn’t afford to throw it away. Leftovers became more meals, Sunday roasts became sandwiches and old vegetables were thrown into delicious and hearty soups.

This, in combination with a relaxed attitude to supermarket labels (which hasn't done me any harm by the way) has left me feeling very strongly about throwing food away.

There was one particular trip to Sainsbury's that really made me mad, when I saw a guy just throwing all the bakery products into a bin bag. No reductions, no options to take them away, just an incredible waste of food that would be perfectly edible the next day.

So instead of ranting, I decided I wanted to do something to help.

If you feel the same and want to get involved with DayOld, they are always looking for more volunteers to help collect surplus from various locations in London. You just need to turn up at closing time at the assigned bakery with a huge backpack, ready to collect the left-over loaves and pastries. 

^ bread lady! Got some strange looks on the tube.

If you’re nice the staff might even give you a coffee while you are waiting and there’s usually a sourdough in it for you too.

Just remember – bread is heavy so don’t carry more than you can actually manage. You need to be able to walk to the tube/bus with your load! (something I sort of forgot about on my first collection).
It’s all very straight forward and there’s no pressure to commit. Just sign up to collect when you can!

Find out more about DayOld and how to become a surplus volunteer here.

Let's start reducing food waste and help those that need it – even if it's one artisan bread at a time.

Sources: https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/