Growing Your Own Food Reduces Waste and Encourages Healthier Eating, Research Reveals

by Ella

As the cost of living continues to rise, particularly impacting those with lower incomes who often struggle to maintain a healthy diet, food waste remains a prevalent issue in the UK. Households in the country discard approximately 68kg of fruits and vegetables annually, contributing to financial strain and environmental concerns. Globally, the wastage of 1.3 billion tonnes of food each year generates roughly 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, stemming from unused food at all stages of the supply chain.

However, a recent study has shed light on an effective solution to this problem: individuals who cultivate their own food in gardens and allotments waste an average of just 3.4kg of fruits and vegetables per year, which is 95% less than the UK average. These households have adopted practices to minimize food waste, such as preserving surplus produce or sharing it with others.


In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in growing fresh produce in gardens, community gardens, and allotments in the UK and elsewhere. Still, the supply of allotments is insufficient to meet the growing demand.


Expanding the allocation of land for household fruit and vegetable cultivation could significantly bolster the availability of fresh produce for urban residents. Research has shown that dedicating only 10% of the available space in the English city of Sheffield for food cultivation could provide enough fruits and vegetables to meet the needs of 15% of the city’s population while also reducing waste.


The study involved 197 UK households engaged in food cultivation. Participants were asked to maintain food diaries, tracking the quantities of fruits and vegetables acquired weekly, specifying the source (homegrown, purchased, from other growers, or foraged), and recording amounts given away or discarded. The findings suggest that individuals who grow their own food tend to waste less, possibly because they place a higher value on produce they’ve cultivated themselves.


These findings align with previous research conducted in Germany and Italy, which found that those who exclusively shopped in large supermarkets were more likely to waste food compared to individuals who purchased items from smaller stores or grew their own food.

Moreover, the households studied demonstrated the ability to produce roughly 50% of their annual vegetable consumption and 20% of their fruit consumption. These households consumed 70% more fruits and vegetables, equivalent to slightly over six portions daily, compared to the national average.

Promoting the consumption of fruits and vegetables is crucial for maintaining good health and preventing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease. Despite this, in the UK, less than one-third of adults and only around 8% of teenagers achieve the “five-a-day” target, which recommends consuming at least five 80g portions of fruits and vegetables daily, following guidance from the World Health Organization.

While various obstacles, including limited access to land, required skills, and time constraints, hinder participation in household food production, raising awareness about the benefits of growing one’s own food, including its positive impact on social cohesion, overall well-being, and biodiversity, could encourage more people to get involved. Increasing demand for growing space may also prompt local authorities to allocate more land for this purpose.

Whether or not individuals grow their own food, adopting mindful practices when purchasing or cultivating food, such as planning ahead and sharing excess food to prevent waste, can benefit both households and the environment.



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