Philosophy at the center of the day of 5 February, the one dedicated to good practices against food waste, it is a habit that many families are trying to make their own. A virtuous circle that starts in small daily gestures, for example in not wasting water or other basic necessities that we take it for granted but not everyone is. According to the Waste Watcher Observatory on Food and Sustainability (on Ipsos survey), in 2020 they were thrown away 1,661,107 tons of food in homes, which arrive at 3,624,973 tons at the supply chain level. Frightening numbers that focus on the need not to waste more than necessary and indeed, to optimize at home and away from home to prevent data from increasing even in the years to come.
The theme of the National Day against food waste 2021 is One Health, One Planet: this is the eighth consecutive year that the anniversary dedicated to no-waste has taken center stage not only in the domestic but also in the economic, social and political scene. According to the data collected by the SprecoZero campaign, at a domestic level in Italy we waste about € 4.9 per household, for a total of € 6.5 billion in total and a national cost of about € 10 billion (including waste from the production chain and 2020 distribution). With this method, the real value of waste that each family “pays” on a weekly basis was also calculated: € 8.70 for each family unit.
However, wasting is not just an economic issue: respect for the environment, sustainability, the need to always (and well) separate waste collection are linked to it. And obviously, as reported by the worrying data of the FAO, also the more general one on hunger in the world, which involves about 700 million people (data as of 2020). Here are some tips to talk about these issues with children, integrating them into virtuous daily activities that have great value in the anti-waste philosophy.
Buy in bulk
In Italy, in recent years, many stores of bulk goods have spread, where you can buy goods by weight (from detergents to pasta). In this way you buy exactly the amount of product you use and limit waste, adapting it to the number of family members and their consumption habits. Having children accompany you to do the shopping out of the oven is a nice way to involve them actively: everything must be weighed, so as to also give a quantifiable value to small children who hardly perceive the concept of “waste”. LO sfudo also allows you to buy products with little plastic packaging, because existing ones are reused.
Teach children not to waste food
Children have their own tastes, that’s true. But they must also learn to eat everything, not only for a matter of physical well-being but also for food waste. Parents can help children not to waste food by not abounding with portions: it is better to serve a dish appropriate to the child’s hunger and age than a giant portion that often remains largely on the plate. This way the baby will not feel overwhelmed by too much food and, if hungry, will ask for more.
Make the weekly menu
This is also an activity that can be done weekly with the children, called to build the week’s menu on a blackboard with mum and dad. For adults it is a way of optimizing their shopping, without buying more than they should: if you already know that on Tuesday there will be fish and salad at the table, only the necessary foods will end up in the cart, to be combined with those already at home. Creating the weekly menu on a slate also allows children who cannot write to be involved: they will be asked to draw the dish in the program to color the pattern set by the adults.
The waste diary
For older children this is a good way to become aware of what is being wasted: in a diary you can keep track of what has been eaten but above all what has been wasted. Seeing it on a sheet of paper, black on white, will give more value to what is left on the plate even in the eyes of children and teenagers.
Establish leftover day
Putting together the creativity of the whole family to organize a menu made up of leftovers can be a challenge, but not that difficult either. By leftovers we mean parts of dishes already cooked and left over after a meal but also foods that are in the fridge or pantry and that must be consumed. The children will be the chefs of these expense-saving recipes together with mum and dad.
The rearrangement of the pantry
Having children help you keep your pantry tidy is important to keep an eye on long-life food supplies without letting them run out. In fact, the enemies of the anti-waste philosophy are hidden in the pantry: forgotten packs of pasta, abandoned canned foods that are left to expire without anyone using them in the kitchen. Setting a day of the month in which you take stock of what you have available, involving the child in the inventory and reorganization, is a good way not to waste.
Sources for this article: FAO, “Hunger is increasing and malnutrition shows no sign of decreasing: in a UN report, doubts about the possibility of reaching the Zero Hunger goal by 2030”; Zero Waste, Waste Watchers 2021 Observatory,