Labour MP Warren-Clark leading the food waste fight in New Zealand

Labour MP Warren-Clark leading the food waste fight in New Zealand

Her experience working with victims of domestic violence mobilised Labour MP Angie Warren-Clark to lead the fight against food waste.

Warren-Clark is the force behind the Environment Select Committee briefing into food waste that will happen over the coming months.

The Papamoa local knows first-hand about how much food is wasted in New Zealand, having first encountered the problem when she was managing a women’s refuge in Tauranga.

“We were approached a while ago by an organisation called Good Neighbour Food Rescue to see whether we wanted to be one of their two trial organisations who would receive the food they were rescuing from supermarkets and cafes,” said Warren-Clark.

“The food we were receiving was food that was good enough to eat, but not good enough to sell, but we still could not believe the quality of the food that was destined to be thrown away. It wasn’t just squashed cans of tomatoes, it was anything and everything that you can imagine coming from the supermarket, like amazing cheeses, organic milk, butter, chocolates and all sorts of treats. Our families felt spoilt – they weren’t ashamed to take the food.”

The regular food donations transformed the way that the refuge operated as they no longer needed to fundraise to provide food, meaning they could channel their time and resources into better supporting the women in their care.

“The food also allowed us to go into the homes of families experiencing domestic violence that were reluctant to engage with us. Food was an entrance for us – it was a really practical way to help support families.”

It was this experience with both food waste and poverty, and Warren-Clark’s subsequent research into the environmental impacts of food in landfill, that motivated her to get food waste on the parliamentary agenda. It didn’t take much convincing to get the Environment Select Committee, which is made up from MPs from all the political parties, to unanimously agree to the briefing.

Unlike an inquiry which is open to the public, the briefing is by invitation only. There are 34 individuals and organisations, including representatives from food manufacturers and producers, supermarkets, restaurants and food rescue charities, who will be invited to share their experiences with the Environment Select Committee.

Warren-Clark hopes that the briefings will give them the information to start answering three questions: how much food is being wasted in New Zealand across all avenues; what is already happening to reduce food waste; and what are other solutions that need to be implemented.

“This is the beginning of the conversation around food waste in this country, and it is the beginning of the formulation of what the problem is and what the solutions may look like,” said Warren-Clark.

“Ultimately, I hope this will allow us to create a plan so that we can reach the United Nations Sustainability Goal 12.3, which aims to halve per capita global food waste at the production, retail and consumer levels by 2030. We need solutions that are going to encompass everything from the farm gate to the fridge door.”

Angie Warren-Clark’s top food waste tip: Don’t buy perishable food like fruit and vegetables if you don’t have a plan for when you will eat it.