One Billion Hungry and More Than a Billion Tons of Food Wasted

GFN responds to FAO study Global Food Loss and Food Waste

wasted foodThe 2011 Global Food Loss and Waste study, commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, reports that approximately one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.

Other facts from the report include:

  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes)
  • The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010)
  • Per capita waste by consumers is between 95 and115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia each throw away only 6 to11 kg a year.

Food banking serves as the link between food waste and hunger

The report shines a spotlight on the disconnect between food waste and hunger. More than a billion tons of food is squandered each year at a time when hunger is affecting nearly one billion people. Jeff Klein, GFN President and CEO, says, “these facts powerfully validate GFN’s mission and challenge.”

The study recommends “good use for food that would otherwise be thrown away should be found.” This is exactly what food banks around the world are working to accomplish.

Food banks acquire donated food that would otherwise be wasted from farms, manufacturers, distributors, retail stores, consumers, and other sources in the supply chain and make it available to those in need through a network of community agencies.

GFN member food banks address the challenges of both food loss at the production, harvest, post-harvest and processing phases, and food waste caused by retailers and consumers throwing perfectly edible food into the trash.

Leket food rescue

Pictured above: Leket volunteers rescue food from a food court at the end of the day that will be delivered to social service agencies in Israel.

For example, food bank volunteers at Leket Israel participate in “gleaning” fruits and vegetables from farm fields and orchards, rescuing thousands of tons of agricultural crops every year that would otherwise be left to rot at the end of each season. The food bank also rescued 350,000 prepared meals last year from banquet halls, caterers, restaurants, and food malls throughout the country, and transported the food to local nonprofit organizations.

The report also points to an over-emphasis on the appearance of food at the retail level, where large quantities of food are also wasted.

In Japan, where emphasis on appearance is especially pronounced, GFN Member Second Harvest Japan produced this video to draw attention to the prevalence of food waste, and demonstrate the importance of their food banking efforts to redistribute the food to hungry people.

Limiting food waste and conserving natural resources

As the FAO study also points out, “Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital, and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.” This fact emphasizes the importance of food banks from an environmental stand point.

FareShare vanIn the United Kingdom, the food company Brakes is one of the country’s largest suppliers of fresh produce. Brakes is regularly left with food that is still fit to eat but can’t be distributed because it exceeds a minimum shelf life. Historically, the food has been dumped in landfill, but last year the company began a partnership with GFN member FareShare to redistribute this food to help feed hungry people.

Between March and October 2010, Brakes donated the equivalent of more than 800,000 meals to the food bank, preventing 1,112 tons of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. In 2011 the company aims to increase donations to FareShare to the equivalent of over one million meals, keeping 2,000 tons of food out of landfill.

Finding a good use for food that would otherwise be thrown away is especially important in places such as Hong Kong where landfills are expected to reach capacity by 2015, and food waste currently accounts for one-third of all solid waste. After attending the GFN Food Bank Leadership Institute in 2010, Gabrielle Kirsten of the environmental organization, Green2Greener, and a team of volunteers undertook a project to establish Hong Kong’s first food bank, expected to open later this year.

At the Latin America Food Bank Leadership Institute in Bogotá, Colombia this past May, US Ambassador to the UN Food Programs in Rome, Ertharin Cousin, emphasized the importance of minimizing waste as part of an overall food security strategy and added, “there is a need to find good and beneficial use for safe food that is presently thrown away, and indeed we have The Global FoodBanking Network to thank for big steps in that direction.”

GFN agrees with the recommendations of the FAO study that suggest commercial and charitable organizations deepen their existing relationships with food retailers and producers, as well as educating consumers about food waste. Food security debates are often dominated by voices calling for maximizing agricultural outputs and controlling food prices, but in order to feed a growing world population GFN believes we must also address the real problem of food loss and waste.

3 Ways you can help close the gap between food waste and hunger:

1.   Connect with your local food bank, and volunteer to help rescue food

2.   Use the Tell a Friend link at the top of the page to forward this story via e-mail

3.   Make a donation to support food bank development today

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