The effects of food waste

The issue

In 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), presented data showing that World Hunger is on the rise; nevertheless, about 1/3 of all food produced globally is lost or goes to waste. . The issue has now come to the forefront as part of public debates and we, as citizens, all have a part to play in trying to reduce food loss and waste; not only for the sake of the food, but also for the resources that go into it.
The FAO defines food waste as: the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers.

In fact, food is wasted in many ways, both during the production and retail phases. For example, during production stages, fresh products that deviate from what is considered “optimal”, in terms of shape, size and color, are often taken out of the supply chain during sorting operations and thrown to the trash. At the retail level, produces that are close to, at, or beyond the “best-before” date are generally discarded both by retailers, supermarkets and consumers. Moreover, tons of wholesome edible food are often unused, left over and, lastly, discarded from household kitchens and eating establishments. Indeed, food waste also includes the half-eaten meal left on the plate at a restaurant, food scraps from preparing a meal at home and any meal that a family pours down the drain.

Every fifth loaf of bread gets thrown away

In addition to the obvious cost of producing and buying food that is then thrown away, food waste is also culpable for more than 25% of all the freshwater consumption in the US each year and is among the major sources of freshwater pollution. That corresponds to 170 trillion liters of water, per year. Given all the resources demanded for food production, it is worthwhile to make sure that the food we produce is not wasted. Indeed, if wasted, food has a harmful effect on the environment. Tossing edible food doesn’t just waste our money but has extremely detrimental consequences for the environment. When sent to landfills, food deteriorates and produces methane gas, which is the second most common greenhouse gas.

What can we do?

Despite waste occurring at every step of the food supply chain, households are responsible for the largest portion of all food waste. The ReFED estimates that US households waste 76 billion pounds of food per year. Indeed, approximately 40 to 50 percent of food waste happens at level of the consumer. Here are some easy-to-follow and readily applicable tips that everyone can try to cut down on waste:
  1. SHOP SMART & REALISTICALLY. Rather than going to the market and throwing into the cart everything is sight, plan out your meals, make a detailed shopping list with the ingredients you'll need, and when you're in the store really stick to that list.
  2. DON’T OVERSERVE FOOD. Don't over-serve friends and family when you're cooking meals; using small plates can help with that. Otherwise, you could conserve left-overs and bring them to work or to school the day after.
  3. SAVE (AND EAT) LEFTOVERS. Strictly related to the previous point. Make sure that, rather than throwing excess food into the garbage, you label your leftovers so you can keep track of how long they've been in your fridge or freezer and incorporate them into your daily or weekly routine.
  4. STORE YOUR FOOD CORRECTLY. Storing fresh produces like fruits and veggies in the right places avoid them spoiling ahead of time.
  5. DONATE TO FOOD BANKS AND FARMS. Before you throw away excess food, look into food banks and charities where you can bring items you know you're not going to consume before they go bad, and give them to people in need.
  6. USE APPS. There are various tools and apps that aim to help people avoid food waste. Find out more in the following paragraph.

Apps against waste

As people become increasingly aware of the need to actively contribute to the health of our planet, several apps and start-ups are on the rise to combine sustainability with successful business opportunities.
Among the most famous, Too Good To Go has been recently launched in Italy. The venture stemmed from an idea by Brian Christensen and Klaus B Pedersen and it was first launched in Denmark in 2015.
The app connects customers with suppliers that have unsold, surplus food. The app, available in 14 countries, has been downloaded more than 18 million times. It completed another fundraising round in February, bringing the total raised to €16m. The creators are aiming for 50 million active users by the end of 2020.
In practice, restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries, pastry shops and delicatessens offer unsold but still good and quality food for sale at a reduced price every day. How? By creating Magic Boxes, that users can book and pick up at the indicated time and place. Users will only discover the exact content of the boxes when they pick them up! That’s where the magic lies.

Have you tried Too Good To go yet? What are you waiting for?
Find out more on their website: https://toogoodtogo.it/it/movement Sources:
  1. https://foodprint.org/issues/the-problem-of-food-waste/
  2. Hall, Kevin D. “The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact.” PlosOne, November 25, 2009. Retrieved March 7, 2019, from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0007940
  3. Gunders, Dana. “Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.” Natural Resources Defense Council, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2019, from https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-2017-report.pdf