Food waste is one of London's great unspoken scandals, which is why Plan Zheroes is persuading restaurants to donate their unwanted grub to charity
SteFood waste is one of London's great unspoken scandals, which is why Plan Zheroes is persuading restaurants to donate their unwanted grub to charity, says William Cash
To City Hall by the Thames, for the launch of Plan Zheroes in the atrium of Temple Boris which looks like a giant glass upturned pineapple. I use the fruit analogy here, rather than the more anatomical phrase that the building is more popularly compared to, as Plan Zheroes is a food charity that deserves the support of Spear’s readers.
Not only is it a charity with a difference but it is one that really makes a difference to the tens of thousands of Londoners who can’t afford to just nip down to their local Waitrose and spend fifty quid for dinner on a few steaks and a bottle of Rioja. The truth is that a disturbing number of people in London do not only suffer from fuel poverty, but they also suffer from shortage of food.
You may not think this as you stroll along the King’s Road and see the trolleys being loaded up into Range Rovers outside M & S and Waitrose; or as you see the restaurants of St James’s Street and Chelsea thronging with international money. But the facts on food waste speak for themselves. An estimated 20 million tonnes of food is wasted in Britain every year from the ‘plough to the plate’.
The flip side is that there are 4 million people struggling to eat properly – ‘below the breadline’ as Plan Zheroes put it. That’s almost a return to the food shortages of Victorian London or 19th century Dublin; and what’s even more chilling a statistic is that the UK’s retail food industry sends 1.6 million tonnes of ‘surplus’ (i.e uneaten, unwanted, unbought) food to landfill sites.
William Cash and Georgina Rylance (right) (photo by Stefan Lubo)
The idea behind Plan Zheroes is to get food and restaurant businesses to ‘give their surplus food to those who need it, so it will never go to waste’. Businesses already signed up include EAT, Subway and Tesco Express. Other businesses such as Pret-a-manger already have their own food waste programmes. The idea behind this food philanthropy movement is that instead of throwing food away, you donate it.
The project has been dreamt up by an Austrian princess called Lottie Henley with support from the likes of actress Georgina Rylance, 33, and journalist and broadcaster Rosie Boycott. Georgina was at City Hall to lend her support to the launch which aims to create what she calls ‘Zero Food Waste Heroes’.
As somebody who regularly has to get up at 5am to report on set, Georgina often drives through the empty London streets in the morning where the homeless sleep out rough, under arches, on benches or on the pavement. There might be an acute housing shortage in London but there is certainly no food shortage – judging by the size of the food waste banks. Her role is to help raise awareness and get businesses to realise that they can do their bit for the community by simply making sure that perfectly edible food is not simply trashed.
Spear’s is delighted to support this excellent cause. Although I am sure all our readers are far too well brought up or conscientious to ever leave food on a plate in a restaurant (especially when a plate of fresh black truffle pasta at Harry’s Bar may set you back close to £100) even the bins of the very best managed hotels and restaurants are often shockingly full of fresh and edible food – often from the very best suppliers around the country. This is because of the ultra high standards of London’s food businesses. A top London casino in Mayfair, for example, will prides itself on being able to serve up to eight different cuisines until about 4am in the morning – every day.
As Lottie says, ‘It’s awful when you leave a restaurant and you know that food is going to be thrown away. I find it shocking that there’s all this waste when there are people going hungry.’