Wasting food in a hungry world

In today’s world, a whopping one-third of all food produced is wasted. Put simply, for every 3 meals produced, one (1) ends up in the trash. And get this: approximately 805 million people still go hungry every day. If we could save just a quarter of this food, it would be enough to feed all the starving and malnourished people in the world.

What is food waste, and why should we care? Food waste (also known as food loss) is uneaten food that is discarded or lost. Food is wasted or lost at all the stages from farm to table: namely production, processing, retailing, and consumption. When we buy or pick fruits and vegetables and later throw them out, we waste food. When we cook meals and dump them, we waste food. The effects of these everyday activities add up, and cause major damage both nationally and globally.

Each year, the world population loses the US$750 billion we spend to produce the food that we waste. But, the consequences do not stop at economic loss. Food waste is disastrous for the environment, biodiversity, and climate. Producing the 1.3 billion tonnes of food that is wasted globally contributes to deforestation, land and soil degradation, and destroys countless animal and plant species. Food that is never eaten accounts for 25% of all fresh water consumption globally. To top it all off, the vast majority of wasted food goes into the landfill, where it decomposes, produces methane—and adds 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere. We humans stand to suffer the most, as climate change brings with it an increase in malnutrition, mental health conditions, and the spread of infectious diseases.

Stopping the cyle of food waste

How can we stop the cycle of food waste? Despite the devastating effects of food waste, only few countries have stepped up to pass laws banning this practice. In 2016, France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food, forcing them instead to donate it to charities and food banks. Italy, also in 2016, created legislation to simplify the donation of excess food in order to curb waste. While the French law penalizes supermarkets for not donating unsold food to charities, the Italian law focuses on incentives that make it easier for companies to change their practices that create food waste. In Trinidad and Tobago, without relevant legislation, the responsibility lies with each of us. The small changes we make will collectively lead to a significant reduction in the amount of food we waste.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO) has outlined three major areas of activity:

  1. Firstly, we need to place a high priority on reducing food wastage. By instituting practices to better balance the production of food with the actual demand would mean that less natural resources are used to produce unneeded food. As citizens, we can contribute greatly to this practice by buying only the food we need—driving down demand and eliminating wastage at the same time.
  2. Next, in the event of surplus, food should be re-used within the human food chain. Food should be redistributed or donated to feed vulnerable members of society. In cases when the food is not fit for human consumption, it can be made into livestock feed, conserving the resources that would otherwise be spent on producing same.
  3. Finally, each of us can also practice recycling and recovery when re-use is not possible. Engaging in practices such as composting allows energy and nutrients to be recovered from discarded food, representing a significant advantage over dumping it in landfills.

With these changes, we can make major strides as a country in reducing the wastage of food and money, curb harmful environmental effects, and alleviate the major social challenge of hunger.

Nourish TT, is an NGO that was formed to ensure that instead of being thrown away, good food gets to people who need it the most. The solution is simple – they use a website and an app to connect food companies (supermarkets, food distributors and manufacturers) that have surplus food – with NGOs in the community who use that food to serve people in need. In just over one year, Nourish has saved over 42,000 KGs of food from being wasted, providing enough food to serve over 100,000 meals to homeless and needy persons in T&T. For more information on how you can help, please visit www.nourishtt.com or facebook.com/nourishtt

The World Food Day National Committee (WFDNC) is entrusted to pursue constructive action addressing food related issues in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) global message for World Food Day (October 16, 2016 to October 15, 2017) is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too” and states that ‘one of the biggest issues related to climate change is food security. The world’s poorest – many of whom are farmers, fishers and pastoralists – are being hit hardest by higher temperatures and an increasing frequency in weather-related disasters. At the same time, the global population is growing steadily and is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. To meet such a heavy demand, agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable. This is the only way that we can ensure the wellbeing of ecosystems and rural populations and reduce emissions. Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and use natural resources wisely. It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through a number of initiatives including better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.’

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