Jeffrey Klein: “Due to the lack of laws, they prefer to throw away a good steak than to donate it”

The original article can be found here

The President of the Global FoodBanking Network, an organization that supports food banks around the world, affirms that the countries should have regulations that assure cooked food can be donated, helping to reduce food waste.

AMANDA POLATO
16/10/2013 07h01 – Atualizado em 16/10/2013 13h43

Who would refuse to give a plate of food to the needy? There is no lack of willingness to make a donation, but the Brazilian legislation makes generosity hard, says Jeffrey Klein, President of The Global FoodBanking Network, an international organization, present in 22 countries, which aims to reduce hunger in the world by supporting food banks. Defender of the end of food waste, Klein affirms that a lot that goes to the landfill and pollutes the soil and the air, could actually go to the table of the needy.

>>The cost of the food waste: US$750 billion an year

If there is no legal security, the volunteers must be well prepared and assume the risks. “The companies are not yet comfortable. The world says that the cooked food cannot be donated. But we have to do it. Brazil must face this question,” says Klein. Over the last 20 years, the number of people that starve in Brazil considerably decreased, but 13.6 million are still in this situation, according the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (which acronym is FAO).

>> One in eight people in the world suffers from chronic starvation, says UN

Jeffrey Klein is in Brazil to participate at the Food and Nutritional Security, Sustainability and Fight against Hunger Seminar that takes place next Wednesday (the 16th), International Food Day, in Salvador. The event is organized by the Wal-Mart Institute and SESC, the first Brazilian food bank to enter into a partnership with The Global FoodBanking Network the MESA Brasil. Klein talked to ÉPOCA at the beginning of this week, in Sao Paulo, about ways to avoid waste, the variation of the commodities price, and the performance of food banks. Read the main parts of this conversation:

ÉPOCA: Why are tons of food still wasted in the whole world?
Jeffrey Klein: In many parts of the world, people do not attribute cost to the food. For them, food is too cheap, when, in fact, it is too expensive – because it is necessary to consider the water, the fertilizers, the energy, the labor, the industrial costs and transport. Especially in the developed countries, it is easy to waste food. People do not think twice. In the under developed world, the challenges are different. In general, the cultivation areas are small and distant from the consumer markets. Laborers are mostly women and poor families. Normally, they are obliged to harvest before it is time for it. There is a lack of information, tools, equipment and storage places, and there is still the challenge to transport crops through bad roads. For this reason, in many countries, around 40% of everything that leave the farms do not arrive at the markets.

>> Brazil and the world have many more poor people than what the governments say

ÉPOCA: What is the impact of the inflation that many countries, such as Brazil, face in food security? If the prices increase, why does the waste not diminish?
Klein: In 2011, the commodities’ price of food reached a peak, and this altered people’s perception of the price of the food. The food waste was still high, but the people had to work more to be able to feed themselves. In the developed world, when the prices increase like this, it is an inconvenience, but not a big problem. What can help to diminish the waste, in these cases, is the increase of the consciousness of the population, not the inflation. In the under developed world and sub-developed, the people give more value to the food.

>> The inflation of the tomato

ÉPOCA: Why is the price of the food so volatile? Is it due to lack of regulation?
Klein: At any time, in any given place around the world, there are floods, droughts. If the harvest of soybeans is good in the U.S., maybe it is awful in Argentina. When you have a big offer of a product in a determined market and lack of the same product in another one, it can elevate the price. And, of course, there is greater demand for food. Thinking only about the nourishing issue, yes, it should have more rules, but the issue is very complex. For example, around 50% of the corn production goes to the ethanol production, because the decision was taken when the energy price was high. Now the price is lower and the ethanol demand, also lower. Many people say that this is absurd, with so many hungry people, to direct food to the production of energy. However, there are many corporate and political interests in this game.

HOW TO AVOID WASTE?

  • When you go to the grocery store, take a list with you, so you will not buy what you do not need.
  • Do not go grocery-shopping hungry.
  • Do not buy large quantities of a product if you will not have time to consume them.
  • Regarding perishable food, choose the smaller bags as much as possible.
  • When in restaurants, take the left overs home. It may be your meal for the next day.
  • At home, the refrigerator must be in the right temperature, 1 to 5C can have a great impact on the duration of the food.
  • Pack fruits and vegetables to keep them for more time in the fridge.
  • If a fruit is [overshoot] make a pie, a cake or a jelly with it.
  • At mealtime, have smaller portions and if hunger persists, repeat.

ÉPOCA: Do you agree with the criticism about the biofuels? Do they represent a treatment to food security?
Klein: Yes, this is unquestionable. All the available data shows this. You can drive using corn or you can eat corn. What does make more sense? It is a complex issue. I always believe that to feed people would be better, but this is not a “black or white” issue.

ÉPOCA: How do the food banks work?
Klein: The food banks started in the United States during the 1960’s. A man [John van Hengel] saw people eating in containers behind the restaurants and supermarkets. Then he created the concept of a food bank a place to collect the leftovers and distribute them to the one in need. The banks were thought to care for the member of a community that are temporarily in a difficult situation. The principal mission is to find good food for consumption, but that would otherwise go to the trash, and the closest possible option, to avoid expenses with logistics. This is essential work: we nourish the people and avoid that the food pollutes our land. The organic trash transforms in methane, which is 20 times more harmful than the carbon dioxide. Last year, we avoided that 422 thousand ton of food went to the landfill.

ÉPOCA: Have we not had waste, would we terminate with hunger in the world?
Klein: Currently, the majority of the specialists will say that there is enough food in the world to feed 7 billion people. This is because there has been the Green Revolution during the 1970’s, conducted by the agronomist Norman Borlaug, who helped the fight against various illnesses in the food cultivation and increased the production. In 2050, we will have 9 billions of people and, if there is waste, we will not be able to feed everyone. There are controversies about this, but if you look to the climate changes, for the quantity of water and occupation of the earth, the majority of the world is cultivated. We do not have too much free space. With technology, it is possible to do more, especially in places as Africa. But the future is worrisome.

ÉPOCA What should the governments do to reduce food waste?
Klein: There are regulatory issues. In the United States, we have the Good Samaritan Law, which protects the food donors. Many industries, companies, restaurants and even people would not consider to donate because they would have legal liability over what could happen with the ones who received the donations. The person could feel sick, die, and a lawsuit would take place. With the law, the companies feel comfortable to donate proper food to be consumed, and know that they are doing the right thing. Few countries in the world have this law. Brazil does not have. We have told the United Nations that this is the first measure to be taken do diminish the waste. In some countries, there is a disincentive for extra donations tax. Beyond the fact that there is no tax deduction, the donors have to pay.

ÉPOCA: How to control the quality of food to be donated? Is there a risk that it is spoiled?
Klein: Each country treats the issue in a different way in terms of sanitary rules. If there is doubt about the quality of the food, the companies should not donate. The restaurant owners, for example, must train the employees to stock and conserve the food adequately. Also, we need to consider the time. Someone must pick up the leftovers quickly in refrigerated vehicles. And the place that will receive and redistribute the donation must have refrigerated for stocking. We have a partner in Egypt in the hotel business that gathers leftovers from parties, as weddings. He trained his employees. The country does not have a Good Samaritan Law, but its reputation is very good, there have never been problems. It is very difficult to do this. It is necessary to accept risks.

ÉPOCA: Is Brazil open to food donation? 
Klein: The companies are not yet comfortable. The world says that the prepared food should not be donated. Many people are opposed to this. But we have to do it. Brazil must face this question. Due to regulatory issues people prefer to throw a good steak away than donate and run risks. What is the price that you would give to a steak you throw away? What about your reputation in case someone dies? I do not know many entrepreneurs that would assume the risk. I am not saying that the Brazilians are not willing to donate. I am starting to work with the Mesa Brasil project to know if this could happen, but I already know the they have a lot of capacity. They have funds and trucks, which many food banks do not have. They will need more support from the government and everybody will have to live with a little risk.

ÉPOCA: What can the companies do to reduce the waste?
Klein: in the under developed world, the reason is on the infrastructure. In the developed, it is the excess of consumption. The supermarkets, for example, want to show that they have abundance so they display food in big piles because they are more attractive this way. The United Kingdom has been worried a lot with the environment. The big retailers started to perceive that a good part of the products that were going to the trash were ugly, but were perfect for consumption. Thus, the retailers started to offer a discount to the ugly products and they became champions of sale. Many people go to the stores without taking a grocery list and end up taking more than what they need. In restaurants, the consumers do not take the left-overs home. They think it is ugly, but this can be a meal for the next day. At home, the refrigerator must be in the correct temperature, and a difference between 1° and 5° C may have a great impact in the duration of the food. It is necessary to pay attention when packing food. – If a fruit is [overshoot] make a pie or a cake. Serve smaller portions. It has been changes in the culture of waste due to education. The youth are more intolerant to waste of food.

Posted in: