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By Mark DaCosta- On Sunday October 16th some 200 countries observed World Food Day 2022 under the theme, “Leave NO ONE behind.” The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Director-General QU Dongyu said, “In the face of a looming global food crisis, we need to harness the power of solidarity and collective momentum to build a better future where everyone has regular access to enough nutritious food.” It has long been known that one of the major contributing factors to the crisis are food loss and waste.
Food waste may occur along the entire spectrum of food production, from the farm to distribution to retailers to the consumer. Reasons include losses from mould, pests, or inadequate storage control; losses from cooking; and intentional food waste.
This waste is categorised differently based on where it occurs: food “loss” occurs before the food reaches the consumer as a result of issues in the production, storage, processing, and distribution phases. Food “waste” refers to food that is fit for consumption but consciously discarded at the retail or consumption phases.
According to the FAO, about one third of food is wasted worldwide. Wasted food has far-reaching effects, both nationally and globally. For example, decomposing food waste produces methane, a strong greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. All of this wastage occurs even as the rate of undernourishment worldwide was an average of 9.8 per cent in 2021. The region with the largest share of undernourished people was Sub-Saharan Africa, with 23.2 per cent of people being malnourished.
The Harvard School of Public Health states the following:
Benefits of Less Food Waste
- Cost savings on labor through more efficient handling, preparation, and storage of food that will be used.
- Cost savings when purchasing only as much food as needed, and avoiding additional costs of disposal.
- Reduced methane emissions from landfills and a lower carbon footprint.
- Better management of energy and resources, preventing pollution involved in the growing, manufacturing, transporting, and selling of food.
- Community benefits by providing donated, untouched, and safe food that would otherwise be thrown out.
Proposed Solutions to Food Waste
Globally, reducing wasted food has been cited as a key initiative in achieving a sustainable food future. Sustainable Development Goal 12 addresses responsible consumption and production, which includes two indicators to measure (in order to ultimately reduce) global food loss and food waste.
- Reduce food waste by improving product development, storage, shopping/ordering, marketing, labelling, and cooking methods.
- Recover food waste by connecting potential food donors to hunger relief organisations like food banks and pantries.
- Recycle food waste to feed animals or to create compost, bioenergy, and natural fertilisers.
In February 2016, France became the first country to pass a revolutionary national regulation specifically against food waste. That effort earned a lot of attention, and many Guyanese may wonder if a similar approach could work in Guyana, after all, the FAO estimates that some 5.2 per cent of Guyanese are undernourished.
In France, large grocery stores in the country have been prohibited from throwing away unsold food that could be given away. The regulation mandates that supermarkets above about 4,500 square feet in size sign an agreement with food assistance organisations to donate their excess edible, unsold products. While the French law was neither a total food waste ban nor an across-the-board donation mandate, it has prompted progress. It helped make reducing food waste the norm among a wider range of food handlers. The regulation changed the mindset of people.
There is general consensus that the French experiment is a success. France’s approach has taught the world valuable lessons about how such a programme may work, and what administrative structures and logistical mechanisms must be put in place. As other countries consider adopting similar measures, perhaps authorities in Guyana may do the same.