Food Waste at a Glance

According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), 1 out of 4 of all calories intended for human consumption is somehow lost along the value chain from field to fork. To varying extents this waste takes place across the globe and affects food security for many of those in most dire need (FAO, 2013).

It is however, not only calories that are wasted. Also lost is potential income for farmers, producers, and retailers, and there are associated environmental costs such as unnecessary water consumption and climate change gas emissions, which in turn leads to further environmental degradation (FAO, 2013).

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The benefits of reducing food waste in fact seem to represent a case of “win-win” developments. According to the FAO, reduced food waste actually contributes positively to all of the “Against the Sustainable Food Future” criteria. A reduction of food waste could potentially increase food availability, alleviate poverty, provide increased gender equality, and reduce pressure on ecosystems, climate, and water (FAO, 2013).

For this blog we use the FAO’s definition of food waste: “the edible parts of plants and animals that are produced or harvested for human consumption but that are not ultimately consumed by people” (FAO, 2013: 1).

The FAO estimates that if food waste was to be cut in half (24% to 12%), then the world would need 1,314 trillion kilocalories (kcal) less by 2050, provided that current consumption trends continue. This would effectively cover about 22% of the estimated yearly gap between what would be available at what would be needed in 2050 (FAO, 2013).

Several proposals have been made to the reduction of food waste. In their paper “Reducing Food Loss and Waste,” the World Resource Institute (WRI) presents a portfolio which is said to be “particularly practical and cost-effective” and able to implemented relatively quickly with almost immediate gains (FAO, 2013). This portfolio of “quick fixes” however only brings us part of the way towards minimizing food waste and increasing global food security.

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To help bring us all the way, this blog will present three different angles on waste in the agrifood system:

  1. Food missing in production
  2. Food waste in consumption
  3. The international role in reducing food waste