Vivienne Dockerty

Author of Historical Fiction

War On Waste: Waste Not, Want Not

Why are we a nation of wasters?


I was watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's War On Waste programme on Monday night, and I was horrified to see all the food that both the supermarkets and farmers waste, never mind the ordinary householder ...

Hugh's War On Waste programme on the BBC was certainly eye opening!

Hugh's War On Waste programme on the BBC was certainly eye opening!

copyright: bbc / keo films / alex hudson

In the farmers' defence, it is probably due to the supermarkets having power over the volume of vegetables they order, but to see them ploughing the crop back into the ground is atrocious.

"So it begs the question. Why not send these abandoned crops to the poorer nations?"

They could be put into a chilled container and sent as food aid to them. Carrots, turnips, parsnips and fruit would keep well and we could reduce the amount of money we send as donations, which seemingly disappears into thin air and into the pockets of corrupt officials.

I cast my mind back to when I was a little girl in the 50's. Except for the loan that the post war government borrowed from the USA to help repair our roads and cities, British people had to step up to the plate and cope with shortages both in clothing and food.

The only time I had sight of an orange or a bar of chocolate was at Christmas and if I got a present from Santa, I was well pleased. My parents kept chickens and pigs, along with a few rows of vegetables and a couple of apple trees.

Any food left over was put into the pig swill bucket or used as compost for our veggie plot. Although we lived in a suburban area, Dad would take his rifle and shoot the occasional rabbit in the countryside close by.

Not many people had a TV, radio, or a car to ride around in, although Dad was a builder and we had a tattered old van. Our clothes were handmade by mother and our winter coat and shoes were bought from a man who came once per year to measure us, which made us rather posh to the other kids, whose parents couldn't afford the weekly payments.

Our best meal of the day was a school dinner. It usually consisted of a plate of mince, cabbage and potatoes or a slice of pie and for pudding we got Tapioca. So if we were able to do all this in the 60's when we only had one bin for everything and it took a while to fill it, it begs the following question.

"Why are people so wasteful nowadays?"

Is it because we are a selfish nation, not giving much thought to poverty as long as our own supermarket trolley is full? I remember Harold McMillan saying that we had never had it so good and I wonder what he would say if he could see how good we've got it now.

How do we measure poverty in a wasteful country, when there is so much help out there to assist the destitute and the hungry? There are food banks, furnished with left over food from one or two supermarkets and charity groups; there is financial assistance from social security and social housing if one becomes homeless. There are breakfast clubs and centre point hubs in the cities.

Even with the cuts we are now facing, compared with the assistance that was given out when I worked for the social security department in the 70s, what we have now is second to none.

Is living in poverty dependent on whether a person can afford a mobile phone, go on a foreign holiday, have the latest TV, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or cover oneself in tattoos? In my day, if you were given a food voucher, a roof over your head and a Giro to purchase bedding and some furniture, you were content.

Finally, if one were to plan ahead for the weekly meals and write a list of the ingredients or necessary products to store in the fridge or freezer, then family food waste should become a thing of the past and good foundations can help future generations to come.

So like Hugh, I ask the same questions myself: why have we become so wasteful, and what are we going to do about it?

Until next time ...



If you want to support Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and find out more about his WasteNot campaign, then do visit

More about Vivienne Dockerty ...

Since arriving back in the U.K I have enjoyed meeting lots of people at the Author Talks and book signing events that I have been invited to. It has been great connecting with my roots again and listening to other people's stories whilst I have been doing research for my next book.

A big thank you to all the readers who have posted Amazon reviews after they have finished one of my books.


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