Food Waste Around the World, Episode 30: Italy

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 Anna Claudia from Italy!

"Definitely, it [food waste issue] must be improved as soon as possible. NGOs or private startups mostly run the initiatives we discussed before. "

Hi! Could you please introduce yourself: tell me what your name is, what you do, and where you're from?

My name is Anna Claudia. I've been living in Amsterdam for almost one year. I'm doing an internship at the Sapient SEE as a talent coordinator. A project led by the Sapient is called Healthy and Affordable, which has to do with the waste. The main aim is to reduce and prevent the food surplus from being thrown away, mostly at food suppliers in Amsterdam.

Talking about food waste, what is the situation in your country?

In my country, Italy, we have many tourists. Every day, they come here to my country, because of the unique landmarks, ruins, and monuments, but also for the food. That's why we are full of restaurants and other eating spots, especially in the city centres. Therefore, there is a massive problem of food waste. The situation in some cities such as Rome, however, is getting better, when compared to previous years.

So, the problem is huge as people are not informed about food waste. I will give you some numbers. Each year in Rome, we throw away almost 29,000 tonnes of food, which is the monetary equivalent of 15 million euros. This data is controversial because some studies reported nearly 15,000 children in Rome don’t receive enough food.

I am sorry to hear that. Do you know if there are any initiatives to tackle the issue?

Yes, there are some nice ones. One initiative is called the Regusto. A group of students wanted to fight against the food surplus and created a startup. It is a platform that provides services to deal with food waste, similar to the Too Good to Go, in Amsterdam. Regusto is also an app that makes connections between restaurants and consumers. This works because every day in Rome, there are many meals which cannot be sold because restaurants cook a much larger quantity than needed. As a consumer, you can book a meal through the app and pick it up at the place.

I also saw that they recently created a food waste national day in Rome. This is a nice and more concrete initiative. This day is fully dedicated to presenting new ideas. Let me tell you about some interesting examples.

The first project is called the Il Cibo Che Serve, which is similar to Healthy and Affordable. It facilitates food collection, mainly fruits and vegetables, from markets and food suppliers. Interestingly, it is one of the few initiatives supported by the municipality of Rome, as most of them are private initiatives.

Another initiative is called the RecuperAle, again it’s about saving food from being wasted. Their primary project is making beer from bread crumbs that they collect from bakeries in Rome.

And the third initiative is an NGO called the ReFoodGees. The municipality does not support it financially, and the owners are food market stand owners. They had the idea to recollect all the food wasted at the end of each working day and create another business in a bigger market. This initiative is growing up fast. While saving food, they were also connecting people and creating a sense of belonging in the neighbourhood, mainly for students and refugees. This is interesting because they also share knowledge about the food that they sell. For example, people were teaching each other how to cook Chinese cabbage, which was a surplus. In that way, they encouraged sales of this product and succeeded.

You did great research! Do you think that the situation in Amsterdam is worse, or better than that in Rome?

There is one huge difference, which is embedded in the perception of food waste. I think we are not that educated in Rome and still associate the idea of food recycling with a social problem; something beneficial only for poor people. In the Netherlands, maybe they have a more practical answer for this misconception. I think that this is the main difference between Italy and the Netherlands. I say that simply thinking about Healthy and Affordable, which is a project that is growing fast and is gaining success with its initiatives. The Netherlands is a step ahead because they are studying and figuring out strategies to store and reuse food.

Do you think the food situation can be improved? If yes, what do you think is the best way? Should something happen in the government?

Definitely, it must be improved as soon as possible. NGOs or private startups mostly run the initiatives we discussed before. So, we need to receive support and financial help from the government. The first step I would suggest is to set up a new education programme starting from elementary schools. For example, introducing a food education subject, where children can learn about the negative impact of waste of food in their country. It will help them get used to this idea because it does exist. Maybe we can also include it in the high school and university curriculum in the form of a volunteering project, or a compulsory programme to earn credits. It could be some engineering activities related to the food waste or helping physically to save food by relocating it.

That's the end of the interview. You collected good quality, exciting information. Great job!

Interviewer: Anastasia Arkhipova

Interviewed: Anna Claudia Damia

Organizations mentioned in the interview: REGUSTO, Il Cibo Che Serve, RecuperAle, ReFoodGees

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