Reducing Food Waste Should Not Only Be Limited To Seasonality

On November 18, 2011, Feeding the 5000 launched an event in London’s Trafalgar Square during lunchtime. The purpose of the event was to provide 5000 free meals made completely out of fresh but cosmetically imperfect food that would otherwise have been wasted. Also, this is part of an awareness campaign which highlights the ease of food waste reduction especially that more than a third of the world’s food is wasted, contributing to global warming, food price rises, and hunger.

According to Feeding the 5000, there are some alarming food waste facts that people need to be aware of: American households waste around 40 million tons of food each year; irrigation water used globally to grow food that’s wasted would be sufficient for the domestic needs; British households waste around 25% of all the food they buy; a third of the entire food supply would be saved by reducing waste, and this would still leave surplus for countries to provide their populations with 130% of their nutritional requirements; an estimated 20 to 40% of British fruits and vegetables are rejected even before they reach the shops mostly because they do not match the supermarkets’ excessively strict cosmetic standards; and 8.3 million hectares of land is required to produce just the meat and dairy products that are wasted in British and American homes, shops, and restaurants. This is seven times the amount of the Amazon rain forest lost in Brazil in one year, largely for cattle grazing and soy productions to export for livestock feed. About 10% of rich countries' greenhouse gas emissions come from growing food that is never consumed.

The situation gets worse as we approach the festive holidays season when food consumption increases. Tristan Stuart, a food waste expert and contributing author to State of the World 2011 of the Worldwatch Institute, said that some simple changes in food could help make the holiday season more plentiful and hunger-free for all. For instance, people can increase donations and change their consumption habits. Note that each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the U.S. generates an additional 5 million tons of food waste, accounting for three times as much food waste as generated at other times of the year.

Consequently, with the end of year holidays getting closer, the Food Waste Pyramid provides a five step mechanism that helps promote practical solutions to save resources and highlights the positive initiative already being taken by Feeding the 5000 to reduce food waste. 

First, food waste can be reduced by planning to avoid over-production and better storage, which would increase shelf-life. The second part of the pyramid refers to feeding the people in need and directing quality surplus food to charities and organizations that redistribute food. Third, unfit food for human consumption can be used to feed livestock. Fourth, unavoidable food waste should be sent for composting, or to the production of fertilizers and 100% renewable fuel for electricity, heat, and transportation. And finally, landfills should be avoided whenever environmentally friendly alternatives exist. These steps are grouped into two categories: the first three steps are waste avoidance tips, whereas the last two steps are waste management tips.

Finally, Feeding the 5000 initiative is a really positive and empowering action, which helps enlighten people about the importance of reducing and diverting food waste. However, the previous event they launched goes back to 2009. The seasonality of the event weakens its impact. People need to be more actively involved and such types of awareness campaigns need to happen more often and not just during the holidays where there is an increased tendency to donating more to charity. Otherwise, improvements in food waste reduction will be associated to a limited, seasonal business cycle. The holidays season is a time for lots and lots of food among other things, let’s make the best out of it. Bon appétit and happy holidays!

Photo Credit: quinn.anya