Food Waste Contributing to Poverty

We all know that wasting food is wrong, but do we ever stop to think how this careless act directly impacts those who are less fortunate? The U.N.’s Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) recently revealed that almost one-third of all the food produced in the world is either lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems—food that could have fed the hungry.

According to the U.N., 842 million people suffer from the effects of hunger globally, and using the UNEP and WRI’s estimates, the one-third of the world’s food wasted could equal up to 1,520 calories for each hungry person in developing countries where malnourishment is widespread.

There is also a moral imperative involved in resolving this issue as the President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim points out, “Millions of people around the world go to bed hungry every night, and yet millions of tons of food end up in trash cans or spoiled on the way to market. We have to tackle this problem in every country in order to improve food security and to end poverty.”

What people may not realize is that food waste unfortunately occurs in both industrialized and developing countries. In industrialized countries, food waste is typically caused by consumers buying too much food and being too concerned with the food’s appearance.

While the problem itself is the same in developing countries, food waste in these countries is caused by the lack of technology, harvesting techniques, post-harvest management and even marketing methods. Insect infestations and high temperatures also affect the quality of food products. For example, at least a quarter of the crops grown are wasted in Africa, where 65 percent of the labor force completes agricultural work.

The environment is also negatively affected by food waste as fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals are wasted while the rotting food creates more methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that is one of the greatest contributors to climate change.

Many are also fearful of the effect the growing population will have on the availability of food after the Pew Research Center revealed that 9.6 billion people are expected to populate the world in 2050, emphasizing the importance of future food security.

As a global issue, many campaigns such as Think.Eat.Save. are now focusing on ensuring food security and reducing the amount of food wasted. A campaign of the Save Food Initiative, Think.Eat.Save works to alleviate the negative humanitarian, environmental and financial effects food waste has on both developed and developing countries.

As the organization’s name suggests, we can all do our part in ensuring that we are not wasting food by following these three simple steps:

1. Think. Planning meals and creating a grocery list before shopping is a great way to ensure that you’re only buying what you will eat.

2. Eat. Be mindful of what you eat, and save time and money by eating food out of the fridge first.

3. Save. Freeze produce so it stays fresh longer and don’t forget to make the most of leftovers.

Food wasting is a serious global issue that affects millions, but through these simple steps we can all do our part in reducing our “foodprint.”

– Meghan Orner

Sources: World Bank, World Bank 2, U.N. Environment Programme, U.N. Regional Information Centre for Western Europe, United Nations, Pew Research Center, Global Issues, Society of St. Andrew, Think. Eat. Save
Photo: World Food Day USA

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