REDUCE WASTE, REDUCE HUNGER.
“In a world where one in seven goes to bed hungry, Post noon takes a look at how star hotels in the City are trying to reduce their food wastage.”
Think. Eat. Save is the UNEP theme for the World Environment Day 2013. In face of a looming global food crisis, sustainable consumption and prevention of food waste are now among the most pressing issues in the world.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that “roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tones — gets lost or wasted”.
As of 2011, 1.3 billion tons of food, about one third of the global food production, is lost or wasted annually. Loss and wastage occurs on all steps in the food supply chain. In low-income countries, most loss occurs during production, while in developed countries much food – about 100 kilograms (220 lb) per person and year – is wasted at the consumption stage.
What is food waste?
Food waste or food loss is food material that is discarded or unable to be used. Various political organizations and entities have their own definition of what constitutes food waste. The causes of wasted food are numerous, and occur at the stages of production, processing, and retailing.
On the other hand; The definition of waste is a contended subject, often defined on a situational basis; this also applies to food waste. Professional bodies, including international organizations, state governments and secretariats may use their own definitions.
Definitions of food waste vary, among other things, in what food waste consists of, how it is produced, and where or what it is discarded from or generated by. Definitions also vary because certain groups do not consider (or have traditionally not considered) food waste to be a waste material, due to its applications. Some definitions of what food waste consists of are based on other waste definitions (e.g. agricultural waste) and which materials do not meet their definitions.
UN chief urges reduction in food waste:
UNITED NATIONS, June 5 (Xinhua) — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Wednesday issued a call to reduce food waste, urging everyone to take responsibility for environmentally sustainable and socially equitable food systems.
While 870 million people are undernourished and childhood stunting is a silent pandemic, at least one third of all food produced fails to make it from farm to table currently, Ban said in his message in commemoration of the World Environment Day (WED), which fell on Wednesday.
“This is foremost an affront to the hungry, but it also represents a massive environmental cost in terms of energy, land and water,” Ban said, noting that in developing countries, pests, inadequate storage facilities and inefficient supply chains are major contributors to food loss; and in developed nations, food thrown away by households and the retail and catering industries rots in landfills, releasing significant quantities of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
The UN chief pointed out that one way to narrow the hunger gap and improve the well-being of the most vulnerable is “to address the massive loss and waste inherent in today’s food systems,” while expressing his confidence that infrastructure and technology can reduce the amount of food that perishes after it is harvested and before it reaches the market.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and public and private sector partners have launched a campaign featuring the theme of “Think.Eat.Save: Reduce Your Foodprint” for this year, to raise global awareness and showcase solutions relevant to developed and developing countries alike.
One out of every four calories produced by the global agricultural system is being lost or wasted, according to a report called ‘Reducing Food Loss and Waste’ released by the World Resources Institute and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) Wednesday in a move to observe the WED.
The world will need about 60 percent more food calories in 2050 compared to 2006 if global demand continues on its current trajectory, the report said.
The global population of 7 billion is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. But the number of hungry people need not increase. “By reducing food waste, we can save money and resources, minimize environmental impacts and, most importantly, move towards a world where everyone has enough to eat,” Ban added.
Initiated in 1972 and run by UNEP, WED is celebrated every year on June 5 to raise global awareness of the need to take positive environmental action. This year’s global host for the Day is Mongolia, one of the fastest growing economies in the world and one that is aiming for a transition to a green economy and a green civilization.
How much do we waste?
In the U.S., we waste around 40 percent of all edible food. A large portion of that waste is caused by consumers. The average American throws away between $28-433 in the form of about 20 pounds4 of food each month. If we wasted just 15 percent less food, it would be enough to feed 25 million Americans.5 Feeding the planet is already a struggle, and will only become more difficult with 9-10 billion people expected on the planet in 2050. This makes food conservation all the more important. The United Nations has predicted that we’ll need up to 70 percent more food to feed that projected population.6 Developing habits to save food now could dramatically reduce the need for increased food production in the future.
The 2011 SIK study estimated the total of global food loss and waste to around one third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons per year. As the following table shows, industrialized and developing countries differ substantially. In the latter, more than 40% of losses occur at the postharvest and processing stages, while in the former; more than 40% of losses occur at the retail and consumer levels. The total food waste by consumers in industrialized countries (222 million tons) is almost equal to the entire food production in sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).
|Food loss and waste per person and year<href=”#cite_note-40″>||Total||At the production and retail stages||By consumers|
|Europe||280 kg (620 lb)||190 kg (420 lb)||90 kg (200 lb)|
|North America and Oceania||295 kg (650 lb)||185 kg (410 lb)||110 kg (240 lb)|
|Industrialized Asia||240 kg (530 lb)||160 kg (350 lb)||80 kg (180 lb)|
|sub-Saharan Africa||160 kg (350 lb)||155 kg (340 lb)||5 kg (11 lb)|
|North Africa, West and Central Asia||215 kg (470 lb)||180 kg (400 lb)||35 kg (77 lb)|
|South and Southeast Asia||125 kg (280 lb)||110 kg (240 lb)||15 kg (33 lb)|
|Latin America||225 kg (500 lb)||200 kg (440 lb)||25 kg (55 lb)|
A 2013 report of the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) likewise estimated that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 billion tones) of all food produced remains uneaten.
What does wasting food cost us?
The cost of wasted food is staggering. In addition to the wasting of water, energy, chemicals, and global warming pollution that goes into producing, packaging, and transporting discarded food, nearly all of the food waste ends up in landfills where it decomposes and releases methane, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Consider these cost estimates of all the food that never gets eaten in the U.S., and imagine just how much we can save by wasting less food:
o 25 percent of all freshwater used in U.S.
o 4 percent of total U.S. oil consumption
o $165 billion per year8 (more than $40 billion from households)
o $750 million per year just to dispose of the food
o 33 million tons of landfill waste (leading to greenhouse gas emissions)
In NSW, food waste from both business and households is most commonly sent to landfill for disposal. The problem with food waste going to landfill is that when organic waste (including food waste) breaks down it results in the production of methane – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
National greenhouse inventory data suggests that landfill contributes two per cent (or ~11MT CO2-e/annum, after gas capture) of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. For every tone of food waste not sent to landfill, 0.9 tones of CO2-e are saved. That’s a saving of almost one for one.
Our food supply chain is responsible for approximately 23 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions – second only to coal fired power stations. This includes direct emissions from agriculture (16 per cent of total national emissions), as well as the emissions attributed to energy, transport, food production, processing and distribution.
In addition, natural resources are used to produce, harvest, transport, process, package, and distribute food products. Water, in particular, is used in vast amounts to grow fruit, vegetables, cereals and grains and to support livestock.
When food is wasted, the energy and resources that go into producing that food are also wasted. That’s why simply reducing the food waste generated by your business can have such a positive environmental impact.
Businesses can create positive social outcomes by donating unsold food to charities that support people in need.
Currently, charities only collect a small portion of the food that is potentially available and it isn’t enough to meet demand. In 2009 distributed 19,000 tons of food throughout Australia – much less than its national target, which is set at 50,000 tones for 2013?
OzHarvest collects around 1,700 tons of food (equivalent to 5.7 million meals) annually from 800 businesses in Sydney alone and has expanded into Newcastle, Wollongong, Canberra and Adelaide. OzHarvest has delivered over 10 million meals to people in need using food that would otherwise have been sent to landfill.
Another food rescue charity is SecondBite. SecondBite has a focus on fresh produce, with 75% of the 880 tons of food they redistributed in 2010 being fresh fruit and vegetables. SecondBite provides a delivery model of service to agencies. This is an innovative model of food rescue that facilitates the redistribution of surplus food from local food donors directly to local community groups anywhere in Australia.
Donating food to charities is an excellent way to promote your business, enhancing your business reputation and keeping food waste out of landfill. Donating food is easy to – find out how through the food donation tool kit.
A practical example: the “donation market”
The “donation market” is an initiative from the French Ministry of Agriculture to create a link between professionals from the agrifood sector and public charities. This idea comes from the fact that professionals and associations are facing difficulties to find contacts and don’t have time to either give away food for free or find donors. This public platform responds to these difficulties and is very easy to use. Donors propose on the platform the kind of donation they want to make as well as its condition of use and its transportation. As soon as it is posted on the internet, all the potential receivers are alerted by e-mail and can accept it. Donors can propose on the platform either food, material, transportation, or knowledge.
As well as helping to connect people and fighting hunger, this platform is also a way of reducing food waste, as it encourages people to give food rather than to throw it away and to offer extra room in transportation, for example.
Origin of food waste and means of action
Researchers from CIRAD and INRA, in their studies “Agrimonde” and “Dualine,” have examined possible systems of production and alimentation to feed the world in 2050. According to them, feeding 9 billion people by 2050 is possible so long as: we increase yield in a sustainable way, we reduce waste from field to fork, and we manage to change our food habits. They insist on the fact that wasting food also means wasting energy, soil, water which was used to produce it and which will be used to destroy their waste. Researchers also make a distinction between food loss, which occurs during the early stage of production (just after the harvest, during the first storage, transport, and first transformation) and which mostly concerns poor countries, and food waste, which are due to consumption habits (at home, in restaurants) or because of mismanagement of storage in the retail sector. Food waste mostly concerns rich countries. Of course solutions to food wastes and food loss are different.
To reduce food waste by half before 2025, the European Commission has proposed guidelines to Member States: to educate people, to encourage better labeling and packaging, to ask Member States to favor partnership with responsible catering companies. Examples are also provided like: to implement a new label “sell-before date,” to encourage new sizes of packaging for a better preservation of the products, to teach children good practices for a good use of food.
There are 870 million undernourished people in the world today. That means one in eight people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to the health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Among the key causes of hunger are natural disasters, conflict, poverty, poor agricultural infrastructure and over-exploitation of the environment.
As well as the obvious sort of hunger resulting from an empty stomach, there is also the hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies which make people susceptible to infectious diseases, impair physical and mental development, reduce their labor productivity and increase the risk of premature death.
Hunger does not only weigh on the individual. It also imposes a crushing economic burden on the developing world. Economists estimate that every child whose physical and mental development is stunted by hunger and malnutrition stands to lose 5-10 percent in lifetime earnings.
Among the Millennium Development Goals which the United Nations has set for the 21st century, halving the proportion of hungry people in the world is top of the list. Whereas good progress was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the 1990s, progress began to level off between 2000 and 2010.
Reducing food waste would help fight hunger problems
Up until recent times, the weekly ritual of planning meals played itself out in homes across the country. Meals were painstakingly thought out. Moms clipped coupons from the Thursday night paper and carefully planned the weekly grocery shopping trip. At mealtime, everyone at the table was expected to be a member of the “clean plate club.” Even the family dog might happily do its part, cleaning up table scraps. Leftovers were packed as lunches or eaten at other meals later in the week. Little went to waste.
Lifestyles have changed dramatically and so has the amount of food waste we generate. Numerous experts have proclaimed the need to double the world’s food supply in the next 40 years to meet a growing population and changing dietary demands. However, because of food waste, doubling the food supply actually will require tripling production from fewer resources.
According to a report issued in January by the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers, “Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not,” up to half of all food produced goes to waste. Waste occurs at all levels of the food chain, from production to harvesting, transportation, processing, retailing and restaurants, and by consumers.
The UK report echoes studies previously released by other organizations, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Various sources show that a lot of food is produced but never consumed in North America and Oceana—nearly 40 percent of grain products, half or more of seafood, fruits and vegetables, and one-fifth of meats and milk.
The good news is that because of ever-improving farming practices, very little of that loss is in farming and production in the U.S.—just 2 percent of grains, 11 percent of seafood, 20 percent of fruits and vegetables, 3 percent of meat and 3 percent of milk. Higher losses in fruit and vegetable production are due to retail, restaurant and consumer expectations of perfection; nutritious, safe and “tasty, but ugly” produce never leaves the field.
The consumer side is another story: 27 percent of grain products, 33 percent of seafood, 28 percent of fruits and vegetables, 12 percent of meat and 17 percent of milk go to waste in the U.S. The UK report says that as the development level and per capita income of a country increases, the food loss problem generally moves further up the chain, toward consumers. Thus, the U.S. is among the most efficient and least wasteful in farming and production, but the most wasteful at the consumer end.
Further, close to 20 percent of the U.S. food supply is lost in households, restaurants and foodservice. In restaurants, portion sizes have increased dramatically during the past 30 years. Yet, on average, diners leave 17 percent of meals uneaten and half of all leftovers are not taken home.
At home, U.S. families throw out one-quarter of the food they buy.
Yet every day, about one in six people—50 million people—in the U.S. are “food insecure.” Reducing food losses by just 15 percent could feed half of them.
Fortunately, small changes can yield big payoffs. Analysts estimate that reducing food waste can help the average family of four find an extra $1,350 to $2,275 annually. That’s a nice bonus in tough economic times.
For consumers, reducing waste does not mean major dietary changes, guilt or doing without. It starts with little steps: meal planning, small reductions in portion sizes, taking home and eating restaurant leftovers, accepting slightly imperfect produce, and storing and cooking with an eye toward reducing waste.
Reducing waste in the food system is a continuous improvement process, involving cooperation and efforts at all levels. It also requires education, but not from a formalized program. It may be as simple as asking our parents or grandparents, “How did you used to do this?”
“We will need another “Green Revolution” to feed the world by 2050,” said John Floros, Ph.D., referring to the development of high-yield, disease-resistant breeds of grain and other agricultural innovations that took root in the 1960s.
“That will mean scientific innovations, such as new strains of the big three grains â€” rice, wheat and corn â€” adapted for a changing climate and other conditions. It also will require action to reduce a terrible waste of food that gets too little attention,” he added.
Floros cited estimates that in many developing countries up to half of the food harvested from farmers’ fields are lost before reaching consumers. He is dean of the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University.
That waste can occur due to spoilage from improper storage of grain during transportation or from pests. Rats and mice alone eat or spoil 20 per cent of the world’s food supply due to contamination with their urine and feces.
“A different kind of waste occurs in the United States and some other developed countries,” Floros said.
“Developed countries have much more efficient systems for preserving, storing, transporting and protecting food from spoilage and pests. But as a nation â€” households, supermarkets, restaurants, other food-service providers â€” we throw away about 4 out of every 10 pounds of food produced each year,” he added.
Government studies show, for instance, that the average family in the United States throws away 20 pounds of food a month, more than 2,000 dollars worth every year for a family of four.
It includes food that has gone uneaten and spoiled in refrigerators and on pantry shelves, as well as food that people throw away after cooking.
Uneaten food actually rivals paper, plastic and other refuse as the No. 1 material in some municipal landfills.
Supplying more food, however, is only part of the challenge, Floros emphasized. “Millions of people in some developing countries are becoming more affluent. In the past, people were satisfied with food that filled them up and sustained life.
Increasingly, they will demand food that is convenient to prepare, certified as safe and highly nutritious and tastes good.”
He cited the People’s Republic of China as an example. The middle class in China is now larger than the U.S. population and is increasing in size year by year. And people in China are now consuming almost 3 times as much meat compared to a few decades ago. Demand for convenience foods also is rising with the growth of the urban population.
It’s time to curb your food waste:
The local and global consequences to food waste are not only financial, but also environmental.
The United Nations Environment Programme reports that, among other things, the impact includes the waste of water, fertilizers and pesticides and results in heightened levels of methane as food begins to rot, contributing to elevated levels greenhouse gases.
While the globe prepares for World Environment Day, which is June 5, others point to ethical considerations.
In the U.S. alone, at least 30 percent of all food is thrown away each year, amounting to $48.3 million, the agency also<href=”#sthash.H6gHOGX3.dpuf” target=”_blank”>reported, citing research that of the food wasted, 61 percent of that wasteis avoidable.
In advance of World Environment Day, we asked members of the UA community to speak about the importance of the anti-food waste movement, offering advice on ways people can make important shifts in food consumption and waste in their daily lives.
Hana Feeney, a nutrition counselor for the UA Campus Health Service, offered some everyday advice: 1) Make a weekly food plan that consists of the specific meals you will prepare, and stick to it; 2. Eat less meat and dairy. 3. Choose local foods; 4. Be mindful of how much food you body needs to maintain optimal health.
Q: Why is it important that people become more conscious about food consumption and food waste?
Feeney: It is important to think about where food comes from. How did it get to your plate? By considering how food is grown, raised and produced we are better able to conceptualize the resources used to put food on our plates. Conscious consideration of how a food is produced gives the opportunity to make informed choices that improve the health of the environment, which nearly always improves physical and mental health as well.
Ramirez: Food production and consumption and the environment are inextricably linked. The planet needs to feed a growing population, yet industrial agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. The United Nations reports that the world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people – that’s more than the entire population. While millions of people starve, cattle in U.S. farms never go to sleep hungry.
Abraham: In many developed countries too much of the food consumed is highly processed, of limited nutritional value and with brands and marketing obscuring how the food is made, where it comes from and how it may be harmful. Also, a tremendous amount of food is thrown away, despite persistent hunger nearby. For many, eating less in the right ways can lead to improved health, but it’s probably more important for all people to eat enough food that is produced with the environment and social justice in mind and that is nutritious. I also think that there are many ways that reducing food waste can reduce hunger and lower the cost of food for people with limited incomes.
Q: What are the common ways and reasons why people waste food?
Feeney: People purchase too much food at the grocery store and then don’t cook it or eat it all. People also waste food when they serve themselves or are served larger portions of food than their body needs. When faced with large portions, rather than “cleaning” the plate, another option is to eat less and preserve (freeze, share, eat later) the rest.
Ramirez: The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a daily protein intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. That means that just six ounces of chicken is more protein than someone who weighs 150 pounds needs in an entire day. And for most Americans, that’s simply one part of one meal.
Abraham: I suspect food waste is the result of many factors including production, distribution, retail sales and cooking and using leftovers at home. I’m not sure where the biggest sources of waste are, but my young kids regularly remind me that concern about food waste is a learned behavior.
Q: What is sustainable consumption and how is this practice appropriately done?
Abraham: I am not a good weekly menu planner, so I’d start with that as a way to simplify making meals and using leftovers. I do spend a lot of time preparing meals for my family and enjoy making tasty and healthy meals with what is in the kitchen already, even when it’s not obvious. I also compost, which is probably one third of our household waste by weight.
Ramirez: Our choices are about more than just the environment; we must consider how our choices affect people too. As the San Joaquin Agricultural law review notes, the “problems associated with mass meat production, on a global scale, revolve around an age-old social inequity, where the privileges of the rich detrimentally affect society’s impoverished. Here, rich countries’ mass meat-eating privileges impinge on the global poor’s access to food and water; the more wealth a country has, the higher its rate of meat consumption, which negatively impacts the poor, landless, and female-headed households of the world more than other groups.” You can see where I’m headed: being conscious about the kinds of food we eat, even if we eat everything on the plate, can still impact not only the environment but also the planet’s people.
Q: What are some simple ways people can reduce food waste in their everyday lives and in their homes? How do you and your colleagues encourage sustainable food practices on campus?
Feeney: We have three programs that address sustainable food. The annual Food Daycelebration coming up on Wednesday, October 23. The Smart Moves Food program, in coordination with the Well University and Arizona Student Unions, identifies healthy and sustainable food options in the UA’s dining venues. And Cooking on Campus, which teaches students how to plan healthy, plant-based, balanced meals from scratch, incorporates meal planning and tips for cooking and freezing foods.
Abraham: The UA has many employees and students advancing sustainable food production locally and around the world, and promote healthy eating habits and reduce food waste on and off campus. I encourage people to be vocal about wanting to see more healthy food offered on campus, to support healthy living programs for employees and students, and to support food waste reduction programs including the expansion of composting though our student-run composting program, Compost Cats.
Ramirez: Simply put, the biggest way to avoid food waste is to understand your body; learn how much you want or are able to eat in a given sitting. If you do have leftovers, save them. Eat them quickly so you avoid the age old, “Well, it’s been in the fridge so long I don’t think it’s good anymore” problem. Another way to save on food waste is to be a conscientious shopper. And while I recognize a shift to a vegan diet is not realistic for most of us (I am not vegan), reducing meat intake can make a big difference. Can you join the “Meatless Mondays” movement? Can you commit to going veggie for at least one meal a week? What choices can you make on World Environment Day that will make an impact? I encourage you to think about the power of your plate.