COVID-19 and lockdown have changed attitudes towards food consumption and waste, according to recent research – a finding echoed by local community gardens groups who experienced a spike in participation and awareness during the first months of the pandemic.
The 2020 Food Waste Report released by Rabobank found that food waste went up 13 per cent during the lockdown.
Cooking at home more often was cited by 46 per cent of respondents as a reason they wasted more food.
Meanwhile, a survey of 3,000 Australians by financial advice provider She’s On The Money found that respondents were worried they were spending too much on food, with 60 per cent spending $150 or more per person a week on groceries and takeaway.
Home grown surges
In Byron Shire, when the pandemic hit, community gardens immediately noticed an increase in people concerned about sustainable food sourcing and home-based growing.
‘When the lockdowns happened in March, we had a huge rush for private allotments,’ said Vice-President of the Mullumbimby Community Garden, Corrina Beacham.
‘We were on skeleton staff trying to survive, but we had a lot more people coming to volunteer because they want to be part of a community and [have] food security.’
Ms Beacham said lockdown had made people much more aware of food miles and sustainability.
‘I think it brought home, not just to the Mullumbimby community but the entire community globally, I guess, that it’s very wise to grow your own food, we don’t need to rely on the corporations’ chains to provide for us.’
At Suffolk Park Community Garden, president Craig Scanlan said that while drought meant not much was growing when lockdown began, ‘we had a lot of people asking for seeds, wanting to start their own gardens.’
For those concerned about food costs, Corrina Beacham said the community garden was a great way to save money.
‘We provide organic food by donation, people can come and pick that, they can rent an allotment, and that’s very affordable. They can grow their own food.’
According to the Rabobank Report, 29 per cent of people wasted food because it was hiding in the fridge and they forgot that they’d bought it. Craig Scanlan said sourcing food locally and shopping at markets helped to address that issue because ‘you can shop more regularly, and get fresh food, and eat that rather than… if someone shops once a week.’