Global commitment and awareness in the fight against food waste

Global commitment and awareness in the fight against food waste

February 05, 2020

Global commitment and awareness in the fight against food waste

National and international days or reports taking stock of the situation will not suffice: we need to step up the pace in the fight against food waste

According to data provided by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), today about one-third of all the food produced for human consumption is still lost or wasted every year. A total of 1.3 billion tons, equally divided between industrialized countries (670 million tons) and developing countries (630 million tons), with a total loss of almost $1,000 billion worldwide. In contrast, over 820 million people are still undernourished and suffering from hunger. Given these numbers, it seems rather difficult to reach target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, namely: “By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.” And yet, as experts explain, reducing this waste is possible and would bring significant benefits, such as improving the efficiency and sustainability of food systems, as well as a number of environmental benefits.

Awareness above all else

How can we allow food to be thrown away when more than 820 million people in the world continue to go hungry every day?”. FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu asked this in the foreword to the latest State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) annual report, published in October 2019. He added, “our fight against food loss and waste can only be truly effective if all efforts are focused on fully understanding the problem.In order to achieve the “Zero Waste” goal, everyone needs to be aware of the problem in the first place. International experts have realized this: in fact, in 2019, the General Assembly of the United Nations officially announced the introduction of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, to be celebrated on September 29, along with many other national days, such as the Italian Food Waste Prevention Day to be held on February 5 every year. 

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And if these days were not enough, information campaigns such as the one implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP), which in October 2019 launched #StopTheWaste, could also help raise awareness. 

Different waste, different solution

#StopTheWaste is a campaign that appeals to everyone along the chain from farm to fork,” said Corinne Woods, WFP’s Chief Marketing Officer, emphasizing the fact that we all need to do our part. “It doesn’t matter whether you are a farmer in Nigeria or a restaurant diner in New York.” However, it is important to understand that each of the players involved can effectively contribute to the fight against waste, and since the reasons for food loss/waste vary greatly in different contexts, there is no solution that works for everyone. This is why the initiatives of FAO’s Save Food campaign have a targeted approach involving strategies tailored to the specific needs of individual countries or regions. Therefore, in the EU, it may be useful to try to reduce waste in schools by optimizing processes and partnerships, while in countries such as Angola it is much more important to try to limit losses in the early stages of the production chain, perhaps by returning to traditional agricultural practices. Many obstacles still need to be tackled which, according to FAO experts, cannot be overcome unless more attention is paid to the problem by collaborating and coordinating various initiatives on a global scale, developing specific programs and policies, and investing public and private funds to get these programs off the ground. 


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