Reducing food losses and waste is essential in a world where the number of people affected by hunger has been slowly on the rise since 2014, and tons and tons of edible food is lost and/or wasted every day. On 29 September 2021, the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste will be observed for the second time. It is an opportunity to call to action both the public (national or local authorities) and the private sector (businesses and individuals), to prioritise actions and move ahead with innovation to reduce food loss and waste towards restoring and building back better and resilient-ready, food systems. Take action, start something. Stop food loss and waste. For the people. For the planet.
Reducing food loss and waste is of significant importance as it contributes to the realisation of broader improvements to agri-food systems toward achieving food security, food safety, improving food quality and delivering on nutritional outcomes. Reducing food loss and waste also contributes significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as pressure on land and water resources.
For many people in the world, food waste has become a habit: buying more food than we need at markets, letting fruits and vegetables spoil at home or taking larger portions than we can eat.
These habits put extra strain on our natural resources and damage our environment. When we waste food, we waste the labour, effort, investment and precious resources (like water, seeds, feed, etc.) that go into producing it, not to mention the resources that go into transporting and processing it. In short, wasting food increases greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to climate change.
It’s a big problem. In fact, worldwide, tonnes of edible food are lost or wasted every day. Between harvest and retail alone, around 14 per cent of all food produced globally is lost. Huge quantities of food are also wasted in retail or at the consumer level. The part of food that is lost from harvest up to, but not including, the retail level is called food loss. The part wasted at the consumer or retail level is referred to as food waste. We make this distinction to address the root causes of this problem, a problem that everyone from farmers and producers to customers and shop-owners can help end.
Reducing food loss and waste is essential in a world where millions of people go hungry every day. When we reduce waste, we respect that food is not a given for the millions of people who go hungry every day. Here are some easy actions you can take to re-connect to food and what it stands for:
Adopt a healthier, more sustainable diet: Life is fast-paced and preparing nutritious meals can be a challenge, but healthy meals don't have to be elaborate. The internet is full of quick healthy recipes that you can share with your family and friends
Avoid buying too much: One of the simplest ways to avoid food waste as a consumer is to buy less. A packed fridge may look appealing, but it may lead to food waste if the household cannot eat all of the food. Taking a couple of shorter trips to the grocery store each week rather than one longer trip may prevent people from buying too much food and help cut back on waste. Plan your meals. Make a shopping list and stick to it, and avoid impulse buys. Not only will you waste less food, you’ll also save money!
Pick ugly fruit and vegetables: Don’t judge food by its appearance! Oddly-shaped or bruised fruits and vegetables are often thrown away because they don’t meet arbitrary cosmetic standards. Don’t worry - they taste the same! Use mature fruit for smoothies, juices and desserts.
Store food correctly: Improper storage leads to a massive amount of food waste. Move older products to the front of your cupboard or fridge and new ones to the back. Use airtight containers to keep open food fresh in the fridge and ensure packets are closed to stop insects from getting in.
Understand food labelling: There’s a big difference between “best before” and “use-by” dates. Sometimes food is still safe to eat after the “best before” date, whereas it’s the “use-by” date that tells you when it is no longer safe to eat. Check food labels for unhealthy ingredients such as trans fats and preservatives and avoid foods with added sugar or salt.
Start small: Take smaller portions at home or share large dishes at restaurants.
Love your leftovers: If you don’t eat everything you make, freeze it for later or use the leftovers as an ingredient in another meal. Buying ugly fruits and vegetables or using leftovers for other meals are two good habits to avoid food loss and waste.
Put your food waste to use: Instead of throwing away your food scraps, compost them. This way you are giving nutrients back to the soil and reducing your carbon footprint.
Respect food: Food connects us all. Re-connect with food by knowing the process that goes into making it. Read about food production and get to know your farmers.
Support local food producers: By buying local produce, you support family farmers and small businesses in your community. Help fight pollution by reducing delivery distances for trucks and other vehicles.
Use less water: We can’t produce food without water! While it’s important that farmers use less water to grow food, reducing food waste also saves all the water resources that went into producing it. Reduce your water intake in other ways too: fixing leaks or turning off the water while brushing your teeth!
Keep soils and water clean: Some household waste is potentially hazardous and should never be thrown in a regular rubbish bin. Items such as batteries, paints, mobile phones, medicine, chemicals, fertilisers, tires, ink cartridges, etc. can seep into our soils and water supply, damaging the natural resources that produce our food.
Eat more pulses and veggies: Try eating a meal based on pulses or grains at least thrice a week.
Sharing is caring: Donate food that would otherwise be wasted. For example, apps can connect neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away.