Eating up can help combat world hunger #ClearAPlate

When I was a girl my mother used to say “Eat up – there are people dying of hunger who’d kill for your dinner” (or words to that effect). It didn’t make sense to me and I wanted to say (probably did say) well send them mine. Years later and Unilever along with Oxfam are taking up my mothers call and encouraging us to clear our plates. I get it now.

Decades on and the fight against food poverty still rages. I know my mother was referring to people in Africa, I needn’t look so far afield today. In the UK one in 5 struggle to put food on the table. Children go to school hungry. I remembered this when I went to the fridge and spotted the sausages with yesterdays date. I fight the urge to dump them and commit to toss them into a casserole instead.

My parents grew up on farms. Small holdings of stony land and skinny cows. Food wasn’t always plentiful. A bad crop would see to that. My grandmother churned her own butter and it was much in demand. It was sold at the local creamery so little was ‘wasted’ on her kids. My dad knew the manual effort behind putting food on the table. After school he’d spend hours combing the field, picking up stones along the potato trenches to make way for the plough – back breaking work. The story was similar in my mother’s place. When they left their respective homes and came together to live in a town, frequent visits back to aged parents with us in tow meant we were able to see where a lot of our food came from. Before we’d say our goodbyes, the car boot as loaded with new spuds or bags of apples from the small orchard. We got rhubarb stalks in the summer. Sometimes there’d be tomatoes on the vine. Or more likely retrieved from the windowsill where they rested to ripen. In Spring we’d single out a tiny cute chicken -”Grandma, that’s the one we want” so that when we made our pre-Christmas visit we collected our grown up chick, our slain turkey. The bird would be plucked by my father before my mam stuffed and cooked it.  The turkey’s feathered wing was our duster for the year.

Now my kids eat chickens that come from the supermarket. They see them stacked up in the fridge and don’t think much beyond the wrapper. They certainly don’t give them names as I did with our Christmas Turkey. I’ve taken the children to picking farms so they know that gooseberries grow on bushes and raspberries need a flushing out to render them bug-free.  But so much of their diet they can not place. Food that appears on shop shelves and later their plates.Maybe this is one reason there is so much waste – there’s such a distance between provider and consumer.


We can start fighting world hunger today at our dinner tables by clearing our plates.

Share a photo of your empty plate on Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtag #ClearAPlate. Unilever will make a donation on your behalf as part of their Project Sunlight commitment.


No one should struggle to feed their family while food is being wasted.

What a legacy to be able to say that our generation was the one that ends food poverty in the UK. This campaign is a step in the right direction.  Read more about Project Sunlight and see how Unilever in partnership with Oxfam are working to bring this about.

Note:  This post is a response to a call to action at Mumsnet Blogfest 2014.

2 Replies to “Eating up can help combat world hunger #ClearAPlate”

  1. Being told to eat all the food on your plate (the clean plate club) is one of the main reasons for disordered eating. Children being encouraged to eat all the food on their plate because of others who are going hungry makes no sense at all. How can creating guilt and potential obesity help those who don’t have enough. Guilt is not the answer. Women struggle to lose weight because they have grown up been made to feel guilty. No pudding until you clear your plate. Cant leave the table till you clear your plate. A lot of women cleared their plate only to go and throw up afterwards. People pay millions to diet clubs to help them lose weight when what they really need to learn is how to get back in touch with their own hunger signals surely. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied, not stop when you have cleared all the food on your plate.

    1. I agree with you – ignoring our own signs when we are full is not the way to go or making children feel bad because others are hungry but I have become aware of not serving up mountains of food so there won’t be so much waste. My boy is very quick to say he’s full so he can wolf down his pudding.
      Thanks for your comment.

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