How can we avoid being part of a global problem?
Nearly 1/2 of all fruit & vegetables produced globally are wasted each year – UN
There are facts collected worldwide; we are massively wasting food on a global scale. At the same time, world hunger is on the rise affecting 9.9% of the global population. From 2019 to 2020, the number of undernourished people grew by as many as 161 million, a crisis driven largely by conflict, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some more sad numbers; In the USA, about €32.5 billion of food is thrown away each year. It is estimated that about half of the water used to produce this food also goes to waste, since agriculture is the largest human use of water.
In the EU, around 88 million tonnes of food waste are generated annually. According to FAO the food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, post-harvest food losses are estimated to be worth US $ 4 billion per year – or enough to feed at least 48 million people. China wastes roughly 50 million tonnes of grain annually.
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 Southeastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.
Why do we waste so much food?
The loss begins way before it reaches consumers. It starts from farms, continues to businesses that sell produce or manufacturers that sell processed goods, to end up in our homes, where we fail to manage the quantities we need to consume. Every step of the way the loss accumulates. It is very hard to monitor all the data through this journey, although there are different initiatives globally to fix this. You can find what each country is doing in the moment both to collect the right data and on planning how to act in order to avoid this waste that has significant repercussions on our environment.
Minimise our contribution to food waste
Since we cannot directly control what happens before we bring food in our home, let’s see what we can do in order to improve, and waste less while we can still have a variety of products and healthy eating options.
Well, that is kind of obvious. Take some minutes out of your busy schedule to plan a few meals for the following days, check which of the ingredients you are missing and make a list of what you need.
Utilise your freezer
Bought too much of a thing? Instead of letting it expire and throwing it, freeze it. Most of the food can be frozen without any effects to its nutritional value. If you are not sure, you can find the most detailed instructions on the internet on how to freeze just about everything, so you really don’t have any excuse.
Buy near expiration date
This can help by consuming a perfectly good product that the business will have to throw away simply because they received new ones. If you can eat it before it expires, buy it.
Get inspired by ingredients
Before going to buy new ingredients, take a look at what you already have and try to make a recipe out of it. Also in this case the internet is your friend. This is your chance to play Chef, explore a new menu, learn a new recipe and break out of your usual and overeaten options. Try SuperCook, a very useful website that can show you how much you can do out of what seems to be nothing.
Say no to all you can eat options
Decided to dine out? Avoid all-you-can-eat businesses that end up wasting ingredients and throwing away vast amounts of food.
Avoid the bulk packages and stocking up for a month. We humans are bored too easily and food has an expiration date. Combine the 2 and most of what you got will end up in the bin. Instead, try buying for a few days in advance and focus on products that are in season, since they are produced more naturally, are likely more fresh and will last you longer.
Support sustainable businesses
Thankfully, there are many businesses that are focusing on wasting less food. See some of them below and by researching there will be many more depending on where you are in the world.
Too Good To Go
Available for iPhone and Android, Too Good To Go connects customers with stores who are throwing away their unsold food. Customers can rescue the food at a reduced price.
OLIO connects neighbours with each other and with local shops & cafes so surplus food and other items can be shared, not thrown away. If you love food, hate waste, care about the environment or want to connect with your community, OLIO is for you.
NoFoodWasted developed an app that shows you at a glance which products are nearing their best-before date in a supermarket near you, and are marked down because of it. Through stimulating the demand for these products, the best-before app makes a stand against food waste: waste less, save more.
This is an app available for iPhone and Android-based smartphone users which helps minimise restaurant waste by offering diners a great deal. When there is an open table at a restaurant, you can be sure that food will be wasted. This app allows potential diners to get a great deal when there’s an open table. The deals are generally 30 to 50 percent off. The app is free to use, and the deals must be redeemed within 45 minutes.
Each year, German households discard about 22 billion Euros ($27.3 billion) worth of edible food. FOODSHARING is an Internet platform that gives individuals, stores and producers a cost-free way to give away or pick up surplus food. .The FOODSHARING data bank is national in scope but local in practice. That is, all people residing in Germany are able to use the data bank regardless of where they live. But they exchange information about food surpluses and swapping opportunities only in their own city, town or neighbourhood. It has been launched in Germany since Dec. 12, 2012, and now has got 6000 active subscribers and generated a very big media interest.
If you have accumulated too much, instead of letting it expire you can find organisations around you that prepare meals or distribute goods for those in need. Your waste can be another one’s salvation.
Learn how to read food labels and expiration dates
Pay attention to the food labels in order to understand location and date of production, expiration date, and nutritional value, it will save you time from throwing food just because you misread it.
Done all the above but still ended up with a product that went bad? Try to repurpose it as pet food if it is still safe, or compost it to turn it into natural fertiliser for your plants.
Each time food is wasted all the resources that went into producing, processing, packaging, and transporting that food is wasted too. This means huge amounts of chemicals, energy, fertiliser, land, and freshwater that is used to produce food that get thrown away. 14 percent of greenhouse gases in the United States are associated with growing, manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of food. It takes over 12,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, even the production of one glass of orange juice requires 45 gallons of water.
Source: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal (Penguin, 2009).
Photo by simon peel on Unsplash