Blog #88: Let's care for our Harvest!

September 29, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
It seems odd, perhaps, that today, September 29, the day we publish our Blog to celebrate Harvesting Day, happens to also be International Day of Awarness on Food and Loss Reduction (with the somewhat un-pronouncable acronym IDAFLR).  But maybe it’s not so odd after all: While estimates of the actual amounts seem to vary, it’s fairly well known that a huge share of what we harvest goes to waste.  Not surprisingly, more is wasted where food is more plentiful, and it seems even less surprisingly that we consumers have a lot to say - and can do a lot - about how much is actually wasted. So, what’s at stake?
Before rattling off statistics and showing you the (admittedly) shocking info-graphics about food that is wasted, every day, in our households, I would want to invite you to reflect for a moment on the sense of gratitude that as Christians we tend to associate with harvesting as an activity and with food as its product. This time last year, Saying Thanks was the title of the LivingLight blog on October 7 that celebrated Harvest Thanksgiving. In writing that blog at the time, I learned about Lammas Day in the UK, the Pongal Festival in Sri Lanka, the Argungu Festival in Northern Nigeria - even finding a rather long list of harvest festivals around the world. In the meantime, Austrians are quite relaxed about when their Erntedank is celebrated - festivities begin in mid September and run through mid October, depending on where you are.  Here, the term celebration is the right one - events do feature music, singing, and often dancing - and given the wealth of the country, the predominant feeling - and of course the name of the festivity itself - is indeed one of gratitude. Gratitude is one of my favorite instruments in our arsenal as Christians! Pope Francis has a beautiful way of putting itt  “Gratitude is always a powerful weapon. Only if we are able to contemplate and feel genuine gratitude for all those ways we have experienced God’s love, generosity, solidarity and trust, as well as his forgiveness, patience, forbearance and compassion, will we allow the Spirit to grant us the freshness that can renew… our life and mission”.

Picture: Vienna already celebrated its Erntedankfest on September 11 and 12 on the Heldenplatz. Across Austria, towns and churches choose different dates in September and October for the festivities. 

So, armed with a strong sense of gratitude, what should we know - and do - about making sure our harvests do not get lost - or rather: wasted?  Firstly, let’s remember that here in Austria, about one million tons of food go wasted every year, and over half of the food which to waste one could avoid is wasted in individual households, adding up to around 130 kilos of food every year.  Over half of that is made up of breads, fruit and vegetables; the rest is comprised of milk products, cheeses and eggs, meats and sausages, and so on. Not wasting any food in households and supermarkets - and not loosing any food on the fields, in transit to processing plants or during processing and transport, would mean that we’d be able to feed many more people on the planet - or to avoid about 8-10% of today's global Greenhousegas emissions.
In celebrating harvest day this year, let’s see what we can do - ourselves - to reduce the food wasted that we are close to!  You can find online multiple list of opportunities to reduce food waste here in Vienna. I also compiled my own list, based on who we are here at ChristChurch and where we live in Vienna: Check out these four things - they are all do-able, easy to integrate in one’s life, and high-impact - so maybe worth a thought.  
  • Once a quarter, or whenever feasible: Support and/or participate in s’Haeferl, a Vienna-based initiative providing food to those in need - leveraging contributions from supermarkets' and hotels' left-overs.
  • Once a week or once a month: Shop using the To-good-to-go app - a online service that helps you identify which supermarkets or fast-food places have left-overs available, at the end of the day, for lower prices.
  • Once a week: Cook a meal with leftovers. And let's remember: Pizza was invented that way!
  • Daily or every other day: Go through our fridges and check the expiration dates. 
Inspired?  Let’s all take some action - and let's celebrate our harvest day by taking care of the food that arrives on our tables!
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