War on Waste: Joining the campaign against food wastage
Each time I bump into debris of food in dustbins, the faces of those malnourished, hungry looking kids and their parents in the different Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps strewn across Nigeria especially in the North East come staring at me.
This is environmentally, morally and economically outrageous in a world full of hunger, volatile food prices, and social unrest.
Food waste or food loss as defined by Wikipedia is food that is discarded or lost uneaten. The causes of food waste or loss are numerous, and occur at the stages of production, processing, retailing and consumption.
It is even appalling to discover that food wastage occurs mostly in the developed world. It is reported that per capita food waste by consumers, production process not inclusive, in North America and Europe is around 95-115kg per year. Our own Sub-Saharan Africa and South/South-East Asia have 6-11kg.
The United States, according to Investopedia has been a consistent superpower in food markets – and certainly, the world’s largest food exporter – but it falls to third place when measuring total output. China and India produce more food than the U.S., but they end up consuming much more of their own products. This makes sense, since China and India have the world’s largest populations by a wide margin. It further states that the U.S., China and India each produce more food than the entire European Union put together. In fourth place is Brazil.
UNEP in its recent report alongside the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, are lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. In calories, about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption isn’t eaten.
Let’s look at some facts on Food Wastage according to Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
- Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
- Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
- Industrialized and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
- Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
- Global quantitative food losses and waste per year are roughly 30% for cereals, 40-50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 35% for fish.
- Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
- The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
- Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.
- In developing countries 40% of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40% of losses happen at retail and consumer levels.
- At retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance.
- Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.
- The food currently lost or wasted in Latin America could feed 300 million people.
- The food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.
- The food currently lost in Africa could feed 300 million people.
- Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.
The United Nations Environment Programme of the United States has some tips on reducing food wastage.
Think. Be a smart shopper and think about what you are buying and when it will be eaten. Wasting food is often a subconscious act – become aware of how much food you throw away. Plan meals and use shopping lists. Bring your leftovers home from restaurants in reusable containers.
Eat. Become a more mindful eater. Eyes bigger than your stomach? Request smaller portions and become a leftovers guru.
Save. Save your food, save your money and save the environment. Donate to food banks and become a conscious consumer.
The number one target of the Millennium Development Goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Everyone should join the campaign. We all can reduce hunger as well as poverty if we understand that any food wasted affects a live somewhere.
Find the organizations that are fighting food wastage around the world.
Watch Craig Reucassel, as he exposes horrible ways food is wasted.