It’s an honor for me to publish this post today. As most of you know, I learned about the fight against food waste through Princess Marie’s work so when we heard about the cookbook and I planned a special week, I thought the best way to end it would be an interview with Selina Juul – the founder of the Stop Wasting Food movement – about the cookbook, about Princess Marie’s collaborating with them but also on the fight against food waste itself as I came to understand how important it is today. I was very nervous about the whole thing and I teased it a little bit on social media but like I said, I know this might seem very insignificant to most of you but I’ve been talking with Selina for a few years and I feel immensely grateful that she accepted to do this interview for such a small blog. I hope you’ll like it and I hope you’ll be able to learn more about the fight against food waste and be inspired to change some of your habits at home like I was.
Selina Juul started the Stop Wasting Food movement in Denmark eleven years ago and since 2016, the movement is collaborating with Princess Marie on several projects: “The Stop Wasting Food Movement has been on the road for eleven years. I started it in Denmark and very soon we started working with the EU and the UN. We worked with all the Danish governments since 2009 and we had a lot of results, it’s huge. We have been so fortunate that Her Royal Highness Princess Marie of Denmark has been a partner of the Stop Wasting Food organization since 2016. The Stop Wasting Food organization has thus carried out several activities and projects on food waste with the participation of Her Royal Highness Princess Marie of Denmark. 8 years ago, I published a book about leftovers but at the time, the fight against food waste wasn’t so much on the agenda as it is today.”
When asked why she thinks the fight against food waste is so important today, she said: “Right now, in the world, we waste 1/3 of the world’s food, either lost or wasted and 8 to 10% of the global green house emissions is because of the food that is wasted. So we can really do a big difference. When everybody talks about climate change, they say, “What can I do? There’s nothing I can do.” But you can actually do something and it is reducing food waste because it’s so hands on and you can save time, money and you can save the environment.”
During the interview, I learned that Selina and Princess Marie had the idea of the book almost 3 years ago: “Numbers from the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark show that the biggest food wasters are actually families with children because they have a very hard time to stop wasting food. They have no time because they are busy. So the Princess and I decided, almost 3 years ago, to get this book started because this book should be helping families to stop wasting food in a very tangible way. “
A big part of the process of the book was to choose the chefs that would take part in the project and share their recipes: “The Princess and I gathered good chefs. One of them Francis Cardenau – who is a French chef – also worked on my first book. With Chef Michel Michaud and the Princess also being French, we have a very French influence! We took a lot of time to pick the right chefs because we really wanted to have some people who are really into the Stop Wasting Food movement and not only because they are celebrities or want to be in a book with the Princess. They have to be there for the cause. That is why we picked these five people who are amazing and most of them are ambassadors for the Stop Wasting Food Movement so it was easy to get them on board.”
The book aims to be very practical and easy to check for families: “It’s a very hands on book but we go backwards to what the families are wasting the most and there’s a list of common foods that the families are usually wasting. We take those things and we work on recipes for all that surplus food. So we have recipes for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, for Christmas, for Easter with a lot of good advice on how to store the food and know about the date labelling. This book is not just recipes by the Princess and the Princess’s children, His Highness Prince Henrik and Her Highness Princess Athena. I think it’s kind of like a Bible on food waste because there are so many recipes and such a good knowledge. We have an index so you can say, “What can I do with bread?” and turn to a page and see what kind of recipes are there. It’s very very hands on and the recipes are easy so they’re not too complicated although we had very famous chefs.”
I personally think it’s a really great way of doing things because it makes it easy for families to check for an easy recipe that they can without wasting much time. But the book also has another important message to share: “We really want to say that all food is good food. Some people don’t want to eat leftovers because it’s boring but we say there’s no such thing as a boring food because it’s just bonus food. It’s food that you have in surplus, you can cook it and save time, money and you can save the environment so it’s a positive approach. I want to rebrand the word “leftovers” to say that the surplus food is bonus food. “
In Europe, there are more and more campaigns in supermarkets to promote the idea that all food is good food. In France, “ugly” fruits are sold for a cheaper price and ads are run to promote the idea that even if they look “ugly”, they are still good and the Stop Wasting Food Movement launched a similar initiative in Denmark: “In Denmark, we launched the Ugly Vegetables initiative and it was very popular and they were sold out in three days – and 75 tons of Ugly Vegetables were saved in just one season. The US, Italy and Japan were writing about us! We expect perfection while at the same time we’re all different people, when we go to the supermarket, we want perfection but why? Nature doesn’t produce perfect, nature produces variety.”
This is one thing I strongly agree with and something Selina develops more in her TED Talk because why does the appearance of the fruit would matter as we’re going to eat it anyway? Selina also said “Another reason it’s a book for families is that we also want to teach children about food waste so they can teach their parents. And that is why an education campaign will follow the book next year, and the work start already by the end of November.”
This is something that definitely happened for my family and me. I’m a student who lived alone (and I now have my sister as a roommate) and I used to waste a lot of food because I didn’t have time to cook or plan what my week would look like meals wise and always ended up buying too much which was a bad thing for my health, for my wallet and for the environment. After discovering Selina and the Stop Wasting Food movement’s work through Princess Marie’s events with them, I learned more about how to avoid food waste and it has really changed my way of doing things (especially when we cook and regarding leftovers) and those habits I have now are showing when I get back home to my parents on the weekends. It’s a slow but important process. We are also using the Too Good To Go app (link at the end of the post), which I can only recommend!
When I tell Selina how I’m usually only eating leftovers from dinner at lunch now, she says: “ That’s what we want with our book! We want Denmark – and in time Europe – to understand that it’s okay to eat leftovers, it’s okay to eat ugly and imperfect fruits and vegetables. That’s why the book is titled “Food with respect”; we have to respect the work of the farmers and the animals. You have to respect the process and it’s a positive thing because we save time, money, the planet so what’s not to like?“
While the cookbook is directly aimed at Danish (and later European) families, it will also be very helpful for families in Africa, as each copy sold will trigger a donation to DanChurchAid, a charity helping people suffering from hunger in Africa: “We all did the book for free so we will get no money. The publishing agency will get money because they invested in it but each sold book triggers a donation that will go to DanChurchAid and I got the idea because Princess Marie is Patron. So this book will be helping families to stop wasting food in European kitchens but it will also help hungry children in Africa to get some food on the table. So it’s a win-win.”
And I feel like this is something we can forget easily. We can get picky about our food while we are very lucky to even have food on the table as people in Africa or even homeless people might not have that chance. And as Selina says: “Mentality has to change, because we need to have respect. You have to respect food and you have to respect that some people out there in the world do not have enough food so do not waste food!”
Obviously, working with Princess Marie brings new attention to the cause and this is something Selina and the Stop Wasting Food movement are very grateful for: “ We are so fortunate to collaborate with the Princess because The Princess is a very kind person and really has a heart at the right place. The Princess is really all-in for the cause. It’s so good for the movement, for people to see that the Princess is on board because before, a lot of people who are already “green”, they were already into Stop Wasting Food but because we collaborate with the Princess, we can attract a whole new type of people who maybe weren’t concerned about food waste. So because the Princess is on board, we can reach more and more people. Last year, the Princess was in our education campaign with the municipality of Copenhagen and that was good because when the Princess is on board, the more and more people are listening and the more and more people say “Hey, that’s a very good message!” People will get inspired, they go home, they start thinking about it and then they start acting and they find out that they can save time and money!”
And bouncing back on that idea, like I said to Selina, most of my readers are non-Danish people and it makes me happy to write about this cause here, if only to share more information about food waste and how to avoid it. And if this interview can even inspire just one reader to go check out the links, go learn more about food waste and start avoiding it at home, then that’s a huge win for me. So I’m glad that we can all learn more about this particular cause through Princess Marie’s work with the Stop Wasting Food movement.
And it’s in that perspective that Selina agreed to share a few helpful tips with me so it can hopefully help you start reducing food waste in your home:
- Eat what you already have in your fridge! Most of food waste is happening because people forget about what they already have and then the food goes bad. So, once a week, you need to have this “Empty your refrigerator day!” to eat what’s left before buying anything new. And every second month, it’s a good idea to do the same thing with your freezer. Selina talks about Unidentified Frozen Object, which is all the food in the freeze that we forget about and throw away months or years later.
- When you go shopping, write a shopping list and stick to it. Because otherwise, we’re tempted to buy more food than what we actually need. In Denmark, because of the Stop Wasting Food movement’s work, a big supermarket chain REMA 1000 has cancelled all their quantity discounts (for example “buy 3, pay for 2!”) 11 years ago and that actually helps people buy the food that they actually need.
- You need to love your leftovers! Leftovers are not a punishment, they’re a bonus! You save money, you save time, you save the planet so eat your leftovers, it’s very important!
A few last words to conclude this very interesting interview? “In Denmark, we had a reduction of food waste by 14 thousands tons in 6 years which is very good but those who have not reduced food waste are families. Hence why the book is targeting families. We want the families to stop wasting food. My hope is that this book will be in every Danish family’s home because it’s very important. And when you go into the flow of stop wasting food, you don’t even think about it because it will be natural for you, you just do it. We’re all food wasters sometimes unfortunately but we can all do better. We’re part of the problem but we’re also part of the solution. And this is what our book is about, it’s a solution, it’s a very good tool to stop wasting food. No matter if you’re a Princess, if you’re a chef, if you’re a normal person, we can all stop wasting food because it’s everybody’s responsibility. We’re all in this together.”
Food With Respect (only available in Danish so far)
I would like to thank Selina again for accepting this interview, I’m so grateful. I learned a lot from her about food waste over the years and I hope this will be helpful to you too. She has also been a huge help to write informative posts about the events Princess Marie attended and gave me facts about food waste to put in my posts and I’m honored that she always take the time to help me.
I hope you enjoyed this interview and I hope it has been interesting and helpful to you. Don’t hesitate to check out the links if you want to learn more about the Stop Wasting Food movement and the fight against food waste.