In conversation with food waste chef Shane Jordan

The highly regarded chef and author spoke to Zero Waste UK about why people should care about food waste, what they can do and his thoughts on our mission

Food Waste Chef Shane Jordan

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and the journey you’ve had over the last few years. What sparked your interested in food waste?

My name is Shane Jordan and I am a plant-based chef and keen environmental campaigner from the UK. My background is as far-removed from environmental work as you can get. Growing up, I had no interest in anything environmental. I littered daily and took no active interest in my local environment. What started me on this journey was FoodCycle.

FoodCycle is an organisation that takes surplus food from local supermarkets and small businesses and creates meals for the local community. I went to a community meal and it so happened that FoodCycle ran it. I noticed everyone wearing a FoodCycle apron and I inquired. I was told about food waste and how serious it was and felt compelled to help. I quickly volunteered and that was the beginning of my journey. It just didn’t make sense that there were people hungry in our community and there was all this edible food being thrown away for no reason.

The action I have taken is creating recipes that use wasted food, and running workshops and cookery demonstrations in different cities, towns, and villages through the UK. I am currently the Love Food Hate Waste ambassador and they have been very supportive of the work I have done. I believe my informal, friendly and informative approach has allowed me to reach more people and make a difference.

Why should people care about food waste?

I believe that people should take an active interest in food waste and realise how food waste affects everyone, including them. Wasting food can cost you money, so reducing food waste can save you money. If you make a shopping list, know what you’re going to make in advance and store your food appropriately.

Also, disposing of your food waste keeps your house smelling cleaner and supports your local environment. For example, when you use your miniature food waste caddy bin and then transfer it to your bigger outdoor bin, you are sealing the smell of food and keeping your house free of lingering smells. When you recycle your food waste, using a caddy bin, you’re stopping cats and foxes from eating through your rubbish. When your food waste is collected, it is usually taken to an anaerobic digestion plant in which your food waste is made into fertiliser that is given to farms to create more food.

As you can see, these are all positive examples of why you should take an interest in the subject. You can’t make someone care about something, but you can show them how taking an interest in the subject will benefit them. 

What are your three top tips for reducing food waste?

The first steps are knowing what you have in your cupboard, fridge and freezer and writing a shopping list so you know exactly what you need to buy.

The second step is storing your food appropriately. Seal items such as crisps and bread by using food clips, checking the temperature of your fridge and freezer, food needs to be stored between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius for maximum freshness and a longer shelf life.

The third step is using your mini and larger food waste caddy bin. These bins are used to take away the odour of food and stored safely, away from cats and foxes, until it is taken away to be recycled into fertiliser. 

I believe these three steps are very simple to do and don’t require too much effort. I believe change is switching one habit for the next. Once this formula is repeated every time you buy an item, it will become a positive habit.

I’m a student at the University of Manchester. Though I aren’t asking for sympathy, being a student can be quite an overwhelming experience. It is often (though not always) the first time in a young person’s life that they have to budget, cook, and just generally looking after themselves without Mum and Dad. What advice would you specifically offer students?

With the right approach, students could spend a maximum of £40 a week, save money for course materials, transport, entertainment, utilities, toiletries and clothes.

I was a student living in halls so I can sympathise with you on this subject. Whether you are living in student halls or private accommodation, budgeting, cooking and general maintenance can be difficult.

Regarding food, it helps to buy in bulk. Purchase essential dry food such as pasta, rice, and noodles. Shop in discount stores, purchase supermarket-branded items or compare prices online before shopping.

Make a shopping list

Make a shopping list using a piece of paper or your phone. Also, keep track of what you already in your cupboards so you don’t buy the same items.   

Use food clips and Tupperware

Use Tupperware to store food in (whether in the fridge or freezer) and food clips for keeping crisps and bread fresh for longer.

Separate food waste from general waste

Use your food waste caddy bin (if you have one) and put all food inside using compostable bin liners or newspaper. This will help reduce the odour of food in your kitchen and save room in your general waste bin.

Create meals from leftover food

Think about what meals you can make from leftover food. 

Understand ‘Best before’

This means the food tastes or looks at its best ‘before’ the date shown. The only exception is eggs, which shouldn’t be eaten after this date because salmonella could start to multiply after this date.

Understand ‘Display until’

‘Display until’ and ‘sell by’ is only needed for staff members and is used so they know when to take a product off the shelf.

Understand ‘Use by’

This literally means use the product by the date indicated.

Share your food

If you have made too much food then perhaps you could share it – your roommates from halls, a friend or a family member. Also, use your freezer and Tupperware to store your leftover food.

Using Apps   

Use these waste-reducing apps to help reduce food waste.

Love Food Hate Waste App

Helps to keep track of food planning, shopping, cooking meals and making the most of the leftovers. The App also has lots of great recipe ideas and tips for using forgotten foods and leftovers to make great tasting meals

OLIO App

Olio app helps consumers connect with people who have leftover food to give away in their local area.

 Too Good To Waste App

The app shows people local cafes, restaurants and juice bars in the area that are willing to sell high-quality left-over meals they have at the end of the day at a reduced price.

 EatBy App

The EatBy App is your food organiser which helps reduce the amount of food you throw away by reminding you to eat it before its expiry date.

 Food Rescue App

This gives users practical help and advice on using up ingredients that would otherwise be forgotten about and go to waste.

Zero Waste UK is on a mission to increase the visibility and uptake of zero waste practices in the UK. Do you support our mission and what action do you think needs to be taken to make our zero waste vision a reality?

Yes, I support your mission. I think the word “zero waste” can be intimidating because it gives the impression that there should be no waste at all. I know that is the aim, but I believe in taking little steps. Food waste and recycling boils down to habit. When I was a child I was taught that uneaten food goes in the bin, and so does anything else I discard. As my knowledge on the subject has risen, my habits have become more productive. Everything time I have food I scrape it into the mini food waste caddy bin and all glass bottles and card packaging are put in the recycling box. I know the food scraped away will keep my kitchen smelling fresher, and the food with be taken away by the council to turn into food fertiliser to grow more food. As for the glass and cardboard, recycling it frees room in my general waste bin for other items, and I know that glass and cupboard will be recycled to make new glass and cardboard items.

The way to make your vision a reality is to provide enough information. This should be a combination of formal and informal text, clear vibrant pictures and photos of public events – if you have them. I’ve learned that people don’t want to be forced to do anything, including reducing food waste. If you provide friendly videos (YouTube) on ways to reduce food waste, have public events and make it fun I believe people will slowly alter their habits and change the way they see food and other items.

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