Food Waste Around the World is a Food Circle’s project aimed at providing information and raising awareness about food waste. The project is designed as a series of interviews with students coming from different countries with the aim of understanding how this issue is tackled and perceived around the world. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a unique multicultural environment.
Today we speak with Ema, from Slovakia!
"Implementing awareness and good habits against food waste from a young age is very important because they’ll inevitably set the standards for future generations."
Hi Ema, welcome to this interview and thank you for participating in the project Food Waste Around the world. To start, can you tell me where are you from and a little bit about yourself?
Hi, thank you for having me. My full name is Ema Halikova and I’m originally from Slovakia. I only lived there until the age of 11 though, and then we moved to China for 5 years. After that we moved to Poland, where I graduated high school. I then went on to study TV and Radio production in Scotland. Now I live in Amsterdam, interning at Sapient.
Interesting! And what is the food waste situation in Slovakia? Is it a big issue?
I was actually quite surprised because it seems to be a bigger problem than I thought. It's not as bad as the Netherlands, but while doing research I found that a single person throws around 100.10 kg of food per year. Recently, there was a survey by the Ministry of Agriculture and they found that 26% of the population admitted to wasting food. Food waste comes from the whole process of production, distribution and consumption, but it was found out that 50% comes from the consumers. Among these consumers, it’s mostly those from 23 to 50 years old.
Could you notice any differences in what you see in Slovakia compared to the Netherlands in terms of food waste?
People in the Netherlands are definitely more aware about the issue and there are a lot more food waste organizations. In Slovakia, I don’t know about many, but I saw that they created a new app called Hungry Slovak. In this app, cafes and restaurants offer their leftovers at a cheaper price for registered users. There is also an organization called Free Food that fights food waste through different projects. Here in the Netherlands, Sapient’s internal project Food Circle now networks with more than 30 different food waste organizations and these are just in Amsterdam.
Who is really driving the attention or raising awareness on the food waste issue? Is it the government or are the NGO’s and small communities?
I think it's a mix of both. I've seen that the government in Slovakia is actually trying to do a lot, which is very surprising since in most countries it's the organizations. In 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development passed a law that allowed food past their expiry date to be given to different food waste organizations and charities. So you could say they kind of work together.
Are you aware of any specific initiatives to address food waste?
There's the app Hungry Slovak, as I mentioned before, which is pretty new and has a lot of potential when it comes to reducing food waste in hospitality. There is also Free Food, who work on projects such as placing community refrigerators outside for anyone who doesn’t want to waste food and for those who need it.
Do you think that the government will do more in the future? Do you think that food waste is a priority in their agenda?
We recently got a new president, our first female president, which is very exciting. She has modern ideologies and her thinking is very eco oriented which is a big step in the Slovak politics. I can’t say how big of a priority food waste is, but I do believe she has a lot of potential to make sustainable changes.
At last, What do you think could be the possible next steps to be taken by the different organisations? Do you think it needs to come from the community following a bottom-up approach or top-down from the government?
I definitely think it has to be a mix of both. I believe implementing awareness against food waste from a young age is very important because they’ll inevitably set the standards for future generations. Education needs to be changed and more focused on sustainability and of course food waste. If people get educated, there won’t be a need for organizations that fight against environmental issues. Until then, organizations have to fight and bring as much awareness as they can!
Perfect. Okay, that would be it. Thank you very much.
Thank you for having me.
Interviewer: Ilaha Aliyeva
Interviewed: Ema Halikova
Editor and writer: Ilaha Aliyeva