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Food Waste: a Global Problem that Undermines Healthy Diets

Some food is also lost on farms and in supply chains, indicating that overall a third of food is never eaten, with households discarding 11 per cent of food at the consumption stage of the supply chain, while food services and retail outlets waste five and two per cent, respectively.
Food waste, pictured here at Lira market in Uganda, is a significant challenge for farmers and vendors alike.
Countries need to embrace innovation to reduce food waste, utilizing new packaging that can prolong the shelf-life of foods, apps that can bring consumers closer to producers and, reduce the time between harvest and the plate. 

This, according to the Food and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), will reduce the amount of food that’s wasted resulting in a lack of food, hunger and malnutrition across the country. Records show that more than 930 million tonnes of food sold in 2019 ended up in waste bins, yet millions of people still face food and nutrition insecurity.  

Some food is also lost on farms and in supply chains, indicating that overall a third of food is never eaten, with households discarding 11 per cent of food at the consumption stage of the supply chain, while food services and retail outlets waste five and two per cent, respectively.  

The problem of food waste is a global one and not limited to wealthy nations alone, said Nancy Aburto, Deputy Director of FAO’s Food and Nutrition Division Economic and Social Development Stream. Her message comes in commemoration of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, which is marked today. 

“Food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition are impacting every country in the world and no country is unaffected; 811 million people suffer hunger, two billion suffer micronutrient deficiencies – that’s vitamin and mineral deficiencies - and millions of children suffer stunting and wasting, deadly forms of under-nutrition.”

The FAO official says that reducing food loss and waste would improve agri-food systems and help towards achieving food security, food safety and food quality, all while delivering on nutritional outcomes. According to FAO, it would also contribute significantly to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as pressure on land and water resources. 

However, this requires national and local authorities along with businesses and individuals to prioritize actions in this direction and contribute to restoring and improving agri-food systems. 

The Food Waste Index Report 2021 `produced early this year by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) indicated that although food waste had been thought of as a problem mostly affecting rich countries, the report found levels of waste were surprisingly similar in all nations, though data is scarce in the poorest countries. 

Against that backdrop and with COVID-19 threatening to exacerbate these numbers, officials are urging consumers not to waste food at home. They are also pushing for food waste to be included in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), plans through which countries commit to increasingly ambitious climate actions in the Paris Agreement.

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