Sitting down (virtually, of course) with Edinburgh students Gregory Zenin and Sophie Henchoz to chat about their new anti-food waste initiative FreeFoodie, one thing which is striking is the pair’s genuine enthusiasm for educating people and tackling the issue of food waste head-on, both in Edinburgh and around the world.
Along with other students Jack Bennett and Meg Dewhirst (the latter of whom also writes for FreshAir News; where do you find the time, Meg?!), Greg launched FreeFoodie with the aim of not only educating Edinburgh students about food waste, but also to make a practical difference by redistributing food from shops and restaurants which would otherwise go to waste.
All four members of the team are self-confessed lovers of food (both cooking and eating, Greg adds!) and hate seeing it go to waste. Naturally, this formed a large part of their inspiration for starting the initiative.
‘We recognise this is not a new concept’, Greg says, and indeed there have been efforts to reduce food waste in the past.
Apps like Too Good To Go, where users can order and collect discounted food from brands such as Costa, Barburrito and even the University of Edinburgh’s cafés, and Olio, where excess food can be offered up for free, are good examples of these efforts, but FreeFoodie is perhaps unique in that it focusses on engaging students in particular.
And this engagement is important; according to Zero Waste Scotland ‘18-34 year-olds waste proportionally more food than other age groups’, with this waste having an average purchase value of £5.25 per week.
These figures are perhaps unsurprising; students at University are often away from home for the first time and learning to budget, shop, and cook for themselves.
In our chat Sophie raises an interesting point here, suggesting that a lack of knowledge about the difference between ‘best-before’ and ‘use-by’ dates amongst students is partly to blame for student food waste, because students see these labels and throw away food which would in reality be perfectly safe to eat or freeze.
And this is where FreeFoodie’s online presence comes in; the team hope to reach students with their ‘Food Fact’ Instagram series, as well as content on TikTok and Twitter. FreeFoodie is also about to launch a newsletter, with the aim of dissecting scientific food waste reports (which we all agree are often long and convoluted) into easy to digest information.
Although the pandemic has obviously impacted in-person activities such as giving out food, it has, Sophie says, increased the possibility for innovative engagement on social media.
Apps like TikTok have increased hugely in popularity over lockdown with young people stuck inside and looking for something to do, and the FreeFoodie team have already started to capitalise on this, with videos of them posting branded stickers around Edinburgh, for example.
The hope is that students will not only see the information that FreeFoodie is putting out there, but will also be inspired to get involved, either with helping to redistribute food themselves, or simply by examining their own behaviour in relation to consumption and food waste.