Food Wastage And Sustainability: What Can You Do?
Food is a necessity that we can’t live without. It gives us energy and it’s even capable of lifting our moods. However, food also has the capability to be a huge source of environmental waste. 14 million people in South Africa go hungry every night while 10 million tons of food wastage occurs each year.
The term food wastage refers to the combination of food waste and food loss. Food waste refers to the rejection of edible food by retailers, manufacturers and consumers due to aesthetics and individual behavior. Food loss, on the other hand, is not as intentional. Food loss can be attributed to an incompetent food supply system. This occurs as a result of poor infrastructure, lack of technology and poor managerial skills. Developing countries are more prone to suffering food loss whereas developed countries deal with food waste. Fruits and vegetables are the biggest source of the waste – being responsible for 70% of the food waste in South Africa. This problem is so severe that it forms one of five United Nation Zero Hunger Challenge pillars which are aimed at eradicating world hunger.
The cost and effects of food wastage
Food waste doesn’t only include the excess food cooked and thrown out or the food discarded along the food supply chain but also the energy and water used in food production- ranging from farming to storage. The energy that is used to produce this
wasted food is capable of powering the city of Johannesburg for 4 months straight. High levels of food waste lead to high levels of methane gas and carbon dioxide emissions. These two are big contributors to greenhouse gasses and climate change- about 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gases to be exact. This then makes food wastage the third highest emitter of gasses in the world, after China and the United States. Furthermore, food wastage results in a high water footprint as food production uses 70% of the world’s fresh water. On a world wide scale, the amount of food lost or wasted per year accumulates to $750 billion. The World Bank projects that a reduction in food losses can lead to economic gains of $40 million a year. Reducing this type of food waste could also increase the income of smallholder farmers.
As the world population increases towards the 10-billion mark, global food production needs to be on an upward increase. Unfortunately, the high level of food waste limits the space on which food can be grown. Essentially, 1.4-billion hectares of land is used to grow food that never reaches our shopping baskets. Tackling the issue of food waste offers the opportunity to solve the issue of sustainability when it comes to feeding the entire population. Click on the link to find out more.
Reducing food wastage
The entire food supply chain needs to be evaluated in order to handle the issue of food wastage. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) developed the Reducing the Food Wastage Footprint- a toolkit filled with recommendations on how to better tackle the issue of food wastage. One such recommendation suggests the re-use of surplus food within the food chain. Food Banking is an online initiative whereby organizations link themselves to various retailers in order to collect excess edible
food before redistributing it. Food Forward SA is a South African organization that’s part of food banking. The company collects excess, edible food that would have been thrown out from retailers and manufacturers before redistributing the food to
various charities. Our attitude towards food is another contributing factor to food waste thus it’s important to educate consumers. Consumers can learn to prepare the right quantity of food when cooking. If they happen to have leftovers, these can be placed in the freezer and consumed as soon as possible. Furthermore, they can also practice better meal planning- wiser food shopping by not investing in bulk deals in the case that the excess food is not consumed. Consumers can also purchase food from local markets as their attitude towards their produce is not as heavy on aesthetics as compared to supermarkets.
In regards to food processing innovations, the FAO has led a project in developing countries Uganda, DRC Congo and Burkina Faso in an effort to combat food loss. They not only provided training to smallholders but also purchased plastic bags and
metallic containers to use as food storage. The idea of wasting food when millions of people go hungry every day is enough to
destroy your appetite. However, with the right mind-set and world initiatives we can tackle food waste in a way that will leave both our appetite and planet satisfied. Click here to find out how Fitkey is fighting another issue in South Africa: obesity.