Pumpkins, courgettes and great loaves of bread adorned Westminster Abbey for a special harvest festival service last week. The Duchess of Cornwall, who is contributing on the subject in the issue of COUNTRY LIFE guest edited by her husband on November 13, was the guest of honour, together with many schoolchildren.

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The choir sang beautifully and the Bishop of London was in top form, giving an address demanding that we take time to appreciate the food on our plate and the earth that it comes from. It was a splendidly uplifting occasion. Harvest festivals, as the Duchess notes in her foreword to the Order of Service, used to be almost as important as Christmas and Easter in our calendar.

But do we now take our food for granted? On Monday, Tesco announced that about two-thirds of all salad bags are wasted between the grower and customer. Nearly 50% of all items from its bakeries are thrown away, as well as 40% of apples. According to The Times, a total of about 14.8 million tons of food are wasted in the UK annually. Tesco is partly blaming multi-buy promotions, but this shocking statistic is something every one of us should feel responsible for. Harvest festivals remind us how important our food is; the wastage is mankind’s shame.

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