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Food & Hunger

Food waste and the hungry

Flickr: US Department of Agriculture

Lately, my attention has been drawn to food waste, as per FAO best estimates 30% of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. There are nearly one billion starving people in the world.

In the US 40% of food produced is never eaten. EU throws away close to 100 Million Tons. Globally 1.3 Billion tons wasted. Is there a crossroads between food waste and feeding the hungry? The other question is what is this food waste doing to our environment and economy?

The second question is lot easier to answer. CO2 equivalents of greenhouse gas emissions globally is 3.3 Giga tons. Or roughly  6-10% of all emissions! Some other relevant aspects to think about are:

Total volume of water used to produce food is equivalent to, the annual river flow in the River Volga or 3 times the volume of lake Geneva (250Km3).

Developing countries suffer more food loss during agricultural production, storage and transportation.

Direct economic impact to the global economy is $750 Billion USD; this does not include seafood.

Global edible food waste is in excess of 1.3 Billion tons. 1.4 Billion Hectors 28% of global agriculture area grow food that is never consumed! Check out this interesting video, which has some innovative solutions.

Where does food waste happen? If you are thinking homes, the answer is a big yes! The breakdown looks something like this:

1) Farms: This includes unsellable produce, like they look weird or do not meet the super market size criteria, to name a few. This is 16% of food waste. And here’s a quick look at the waste in harvest at each stage of the food chain.

2) Manufacturers and food processors account for 2% of unused food.

3) Consumer facing business: this includes super markets, restaurants and the like, is a whopping 40%! Do you know that only about 50% of the restaurants actually donate or recycle food?

4) Homes: The biggest culprits, we waste or throwaway good food, led by “use by” labels and disfigurement. Or consumers changing their minds about eating the spinach they bought. This makes up 43% of food waste. Here’s a solution: Home waste composting can divert 150Kgs away from the landfills.

What is the world doing about food waste?

France was the first country to pass a law that requires supermarkets to donate unsold food to charities and or to be used as animal food.

In the US alone, the cost of food waste is $218 Billion. Cutting waste by only 15% can feed 25 Million people. The US Government announced last September a goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.

At the farm level, there is a movement growing. The farmers are now working with charities to distribute the produce that is rejected by supermarkets (bulk buyers) to be distributed to low income families and the needy.

The Ugly food movement, Whole Foods in the US and Waitrose in the UK are pioneers. These are perfectly edible and have the same nutrients. Only they look “Ugly,” I would say not the ordinary but not ugly.

Why throw away food while the hungry are still going hungry? 


The views expressed here are not necessarily those of each of the partners of Global Citizen.