The third annual Food Waste Action Week takes place from 6th – 12th March 2023.

Year on year, the campaign which aims to halve food waste by 2030 is growing internationally.

It’s 2023 theme ‘Win. Don’t Bin.’ struck a culturally resonant chord with AFRICA: Seen & Heard’s growing focus on Sustainability, Cultural Diplomacy and Food Security.

ASH Culinaria and the Sustainable Restaurant Association collaborated to support this years’s campaign.

Food waste takes place throughout all the processes of food production from cultivation to consumption.

Across the global foodservice industry, the reasons for food waste can vary from inadequate climate control, mould and pests to overbuying stock, overfilling plates and the intentional discarding of imperfect vegetables and daily-baked bread.

Worldwide, one thing the industry has in common irrespective of microorganisms, power supply and national food agency standards is the aggregate impact that food waste has on our planet.

Wasted food usually ends up in landfills.

It decomposes slowly, without oxygen and releases harmful greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that contribute to global warming.

Globally, around one third of the food we produce is discarded uneaten.

Our food waste generates around 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions.

If it were a nation in its own right, our collective food waste’s carbon footprint would rank third behind the USA and China.

With this in mind, Food Waste Action Week provides foodservice providers around the world with a unique opportunity to integrate environmental responsibility, culinary innovation and social value into their business models.

Championing food waste action can also add value to the world’s 15 official government-sponsored gastrodiplomacy programs and serve as a cornerstone for national programs yet to come.

Around the world, government ministries, tourist boards and travelers agree that “the easiest way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach”.

Thailand is perhaps the most successful flag-bearer of gastrodiplomacy, a tool of cultural diplomacy that uses food and cuisine to develop economic opportunities and intangible heritage and can support partnerships for chefs, food products, culture and community.

Since the Royal Thai Government launched the “Global Thai” campaign in 2002, it has overdelivered on its objective to increase the number of Thai restaurants worldwide.

With an aim to boost the 5,500 global Thai restaurants to 8,000 by 2003, the number exceeded 10,000 by 2011.

The state-owned Export-Import Bank of Thailand offered “Master Restaurant” loans to Thai nationals with a plan to open a Thai restaurant or other food industry initiative overseas, whilst the Department of International Trade Promotion’s public relations campaign ensured traditional Thai dishes such as Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong and Gaeng Deng became recognisable internationally.

As well as elevating Thailand’s national image and supporting its restaurateurs, the global advance of Thai restaurants created nation brand identity, cultural appreciation and promoted international tourism to Thailand.

Bringing the world’s attention to the sustainable practices within a nation’s culinary heritage and contemporary cuisine amplifies positive associations with the destination brand, deepens connection to the cuisine and contributes to the growth of its F&B, hospitality and tourism sectors.

The term “gastrodiplomacy” was minted by The Economist magazine in February 2002 to describe the government of Thailand’s global efforts to promote its national cuisine.

Cuisine captures the essence of a nation’s culture and identity as it records and transmits values, traditions and history. It is also easily shared by people movement, globalisation and advances in technology.

Food has a unique diplomatic ability to influence a nation’s social and political conditions as well as advance domestic and international interests.

Market Thai, a local dining institution in London‘s Notting Hill since 1998 is committed to tackling food waste.

At 17:00 on the final Thursday of February, it was shocking to hear that I was only the second diner of the day.

The restaurant has survived the fate of many neighbourhood restaurants that have gone under due to the effects of the pandemic and London rents rising more than one third in the past year.

Although not aware of or involved in the “Global Thai” campaign, Market Thai acts as an unofficial cultural ambassador via their Thai cuisine.

Many diners book a table to relive their holiday experiences and those yet to visit Thailand remark they are inspired to do so by the heritage ornamentation and authentic caramelised curries.

Situated within airy first floor premises fitted with carved wooden arches and decorated with Thai artefacts, the tranquil ambience feels a continent away from the Portobello Road bustle below.

A loyal clientele of North Kensington residents, discerning international tourists and Elders from London’s widespread Thai community seek out the exquisite traditional dishes.

The chef cooks each dish to order to minimise food waste.

Cancelled orders are given to staff to take home rather than thrown away.

Thai culture is innately anti food-waste.

Rice is considered sacred with each grain having a divine element within it so grains aren’t left on a Thai diners’ plate.

Over the delectable Slow Cooked Beef Massaman and Sticky Rice, I discussed sustainability and the medicinal properties of Thai spices with owner Jittinee Sakphattanakul and a respected Elder picking up her off-menu treat.

“If we have any leftover vegetables we keep it to make soup. We keep the onion skins and cook with the slow-cooked beef for three or four hours and then with coconut. Ginger peelings we keep and use to slow cook beef and pork.”

This was great to hear as in ASH Culinaria projects, the outer skins of onion are strategically deployed to deliver quercetin and other antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids into recipes.

It was an additional boost to my satisfaction to appreciate that as well as enjoying a dish incorporating food waste action, it was also contributing to my daily intake of vitamins and antioxidants.

Our cultural understanding and culinary exchange continued as I drew a comparison between the use of coconut milk and the similar flavour profile between Thai kaeng curries and some of the Aguda dishes of Lagos Island, Nigeria.

Jittinee praised: “We have a lot of Nigerian customers. From Nigeria and Ghana, a lot of them live around and eat here.”

I pointed out the similarities in our national cuisines, including a penchant for chilies, palm products, leafy vegetables and bitter pea aubergines.

As I took another comforting spoonful of rice, it recognised that increasingly, Thai jasmine rice is favoured by discerning West African cooks.

Thailand is now the biggest supplier of rice to the continent of Africa and is exploring assisting capacity development within Africa’s agricultural sector to increase productivity.

Across town in Peckham, sisters Jess and Jo Edun live and work by the motto Chop life, before life chops you.

They are flamboyantly flying the flag for Nigerian cuisine with a uniquely British twist at their restaurant The Flygerians, within The Peckham Palms, London’s first Black women led business hub.

In Nigeria, to “chop life” is to squeeze every last drop of joy out of life’s pleasure.

As a fellow British-Nigerian, I can attest that chopping life is at its best when eating jollof rice.

Jo agreed, particularly when asked if food waste inspired the innovation of new dishes:

“It actually has, as a lot of our menu crosses over and we change a lot of food. In terms of food waste we tried to cook just one type of rice.

We looked at the best sellers and jollof rice was always the best seller.

Fried rice was on the menu before but it wasn’t our biggest seller…

So you know what, let’s just focus on one rice dish and master it, add the toppings on – spinach, suya, chicken, beef whatever you like.

We’ve got a small tailorised menu to minimise food waste but also we’ve just chosen the finest of the finest and stuff that’s less perishable and will last a bit longer.”

The Flygerians are food waste action champions and keen to achieve a Food Made Good Sustainability Standard.

“We don’t really waste food. We’ve got a Zero Waste policy really. We cook until we sell out. We kind of gauge how much we roughly sell. If we’ve got a big event booked in, we normally prepare a plan for that. Our waste is quite minimal to be honest.

No food goes to waste. We have a big family of eight as well. Whatever we don’t sell we give it to the staff. There are also a lot of homeless people around the Peckham area who we give food to.

On a Saturday when we’re closed until Tuesday, we normally just give the food away.”

As well as incorporating the Society pillar of the Food Made Good Framework into their business model, The Flygerians enhance cultural exchange and nation-to-people contacts between Nigeria and diners of diverse ethnicities keen to sample the national cuisine.

Jo asserts: “Everyone loves jollof, everyone’s heard of heard jollof, everyone wants jollof. I think we’re a nice, happy medium to educate, to break in the British food market with Nigerian food.

The clientele we get are the middle class white people [around] here.

Two of our oldest customers are a 70 year old couple from Blackheath, they come all the time to get their Jollof Rice and Eforiro (a Yórùba spiced spinach dish).”

Whilst The Flygerians’ cross-cultural repertoire of dishes entices customers from non-Nigerian backgrounds, – tourists from as far afield as the Czech Republic who have Googled “Nigerian Food” before their trip to the UK and a large segment of the local Korean community, – when it comes to visiting Nigeria, Jo notes:

“They’re a bit apprehensive because we haven’t really opened the [tourism] market. Some of them have already been. There are a lot of developers, engineers that come along.

Some of them have worked there, some of them are interested in going to Nigeria.

They want to know more about Nigerian culture literally. They’re really keen.”

Our conversation turned to food innovation and I enlightened Jo on the potential of overripe plantain skins when developing new menu items and production processes.

In the ASH Lab, I have transformed them to develop a variety of concepts from a fragrant vinaigrette to a crispy vegan ‘bacon’.

“That’s really quite cool,” Jo enthused. “I’ve never actually seen that. When the plantain gets too ripe to fry for the serving plate we make them into fritters.

We’ve made waffles before in the past.”

Across West Africa’s British diaspora, the wastage of overripe plantain is a matter of concern amongst foodservice providers with a sustainability mission.

The savoury sibling of the banana changes colour from green to yellow to black as the fruit ripens and begins to decompose.

Since the UK began experiencing a cost of living crisis, I have identified “the plantain problem” – price elasticity of demand being inextricably linked with the fruit’s stages of ripeness as the retail price soars.

On the first day of Food Waste Action Week I was delighted to see an Instagram post showcasing Plantain Brioche. I reached out to enquire whether the tantalizing pastries were made using overripe plantain otherwise destined to become food waste.

Shwen Shwen’s director Maria Bradford is a caterer, beverage producer and the innovator of Plantain Brioche.

She explained the product’s inspiration:

“It’s my Afro-fusion style of cooking rather than a traditional Sierra Leonean dish.

When visiting Afro-Caribbean food stores here in the UK, people are often shocked when I go for the really black plantain… black overripe plantain are sweeter with stronger aromatics of vanilla.

Plantain Brioche came from me trying to use up those black plantains that will become waste in the African shops. If they don’t sell it, they will chuck it.

We Sierra Leoneans like bread, it’s a big thing we eat so much bread and we like bread that is sweet as well.”

We discussed my great grandfather Dr John Randle after whom Lagos State’s new cultural centre is named. He was a Saro born in the Liberated African settlement of Regent in Sierra Leone . He was known for having the tastes of a Victorian gentleman, taking afternoon tea and ordering his foodstuffs from London.

When it comes to West African countries, I am keen to connect my ancestral dots and forge more cultural understanding.

Maria agreed with ASH Culinaria’s appraisal that our shared national dishes provide a perfect opportunity for cooperation centred upon trade and tourism between the two ECOWAS nations:

Sierra Leone is tiny with only eight million people but we have a really huge connection with Nigeria.

We have puff-puff that we make with plantain too and egusi soup for example.

Similar things like iru [fermented locust bean condiment], we call it ‘kenda’. We use ingredients differently but we are similar in terms of diet and our attitude towards food.”

Shwen Shwen by Maria shares The Flygerians approach to managing food waste – using it to spark forward-thinking concepts and menu items and purchasing only as many ingredients as are needed.

This approach also significantly reduces restaurant disposal costs.

Food Waste Action Week is the perfect time for nations to begin working more closely with their foodservice providers in a collaborative strategy that can promote nation brand, develop their hospitality and tourism sectors and also tackle issues including hunger and food security.

Food Waste Action also provides scope for chefs and restaurateurs of different heritages to exchange food waste hacks, recipes and co-design smart menu planning principles.

They can collectively champion the diversity of national cuisines and innovate global fusion cuisines that combine and celebrate elements of different culinary traditions.

There are many fresh strategies that can support activity to realise the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production such as:

  1. Facilitating foodservice provider donations of excess food to organisations and sites that provide hunger relief including soup kitchens, food banks and refugee centres
  2. Supporting local authority collection of restaurant food waste, processing to compost, fertilizer or animal feed for the agricultural sector
  3. Planning long term facilities that convert food waste to industrial use including bioenergy and bioplastics

We have heard first hand, how simple it is for every global foodservice provider with a commitment to food waste action to do their part.

No matter where a restaurant is in the world or the roots of its culinary culture, it is possible to employ traditional and modern methods to tackle and prevent food waste.

As well as acting as ambassadors for their food cultures and translating them to new market bases, restaurateurs can play an integral role in educating customers on food waste.

A restaurant’s ingenuity will inspire other chefs and businesses to develop new ideas, share solutions and implement change.

Rather than feed global warming, why not let your food waste fuel culinary innovation?

Forward-thinking foodservice providers make sustainable decisions that develop new tastes, set trends and preserve our planet one plate at a time, every week of the year.

Are you ready to take your first steps towards a better and less wasteful future?






THE MARKET THAIFirst Floor, Entrance is on, 240 Portobello Rd, Lancaster Rd, London W11 1LL  Website: https://themarketthai.com/  Telephone: 020 7460 8320

THE FLYGERIANS Peckham Palms, 14 Bournemouth Close, London SE15 4PB  Website: https://www.theflygerians.com/ @theflygerians

© W. O. Adeyemi/ AFRICA: Seen & Heard Ltd and africaseenheard.wordpress.com, 2023. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to W. O. AdeyemiAFRICA: Seen & Heard and africaseenheard.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



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