Today is the United Nations first observance of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. In 2019, the 74th U.N. General Assembly designated September 29th as the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, recognizing the fundamental role that sustainable food production plays in promoting food security and nutrition.
Now more than ever, we as a civilization need to focus on the efficient collection of food products, as well as finding new ways to distribute it to those who are most vulnerable to hunger.
Annually, 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted; that's equal to a third of all food produced for human consumption.
All of this food waste contributes to the misuse and squandering of important, limited resources, such as: water, fertile land, electricity, and financial capital.
In developing countries, the reasoning behind food waste has more to do with the food cultivation process itself. Some of that reasoning being: lacking access to cooled storage, harvesting technology, and efficient transportation of food items. These limitations result in about a 40 percent loss of usable food at the cultivation stage.
Whereas in North America and Europe, food waste has mostly to do with consumer/retail behavior. On a consumer level, food portions have gotten larger across the board, which leads to overeating, or throwing away what one can't eat. In North America, refrigerators have steadily increased in size by about 15 percent. People want to fill their fridges; they purchase more food than they need; and the food spoils in the fridge and is then thrown out. Additionally, supermarkets will overstock their store shelves to boost sales, then will have to throw out whatever doesn’t sell. This results in a 40 percent food loss from the selling and purchasing stage of food distribution.
Despite the percentages of loss being relatively the same, developed nations waste substantially more food then developing nations. In North American and European countries, the average person will generate roughly 104.3 kilograms (230 pounds) of wasted food per year, whereas in developing nations, such as many parts of Africa, the average person will generate only 7.7 kilograms (17 pounds) of wasted food per year.
The US has four times more food than their citizens need. Yet, 1 out of every 7 Americans struggle with hunger and putting food on the table.
800 million people worldwide struggle with food insecurity and the effects of malnourishment every day. If we were to reduce our food loss by just ¼, that food could feed 870 million people, easily.
Food waste is the 3rd largest contributor of greenhouse gases. Rotting food generates large amounts of methane gas, which has been proven to be at least 30 times more potent than CO2 as a heat trapping greenhouse gas.
There are several systemic reasons for such massive food waste. For example, in developed nations for the cultivation process it’s not only important for food to be healthy to consume but also normal looking. Most fruits and vegetables that grow in a bit of a strange way or strange shape are just fine to eat. But grocery stores don’t want to sell apples with two stems or carrots that are significantly curved or bent. Therefore this food is graded substantially lower and most of the time at the farming level they are simply thrown away.
At the moment there isn’t any substantial government regulation or grants that support the cultivation and distribution of so called “strange” looking food. But there are small communities trying to make a big difference in food waste reduction.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues generating significant challenges to food security in many countries. The disruption of supply chains, quarantine measures, and closures of schools, have made it extremely difficult to get food to those who need it most, as well as making it difficult to execute solutions to this global issue.