International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction
Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Taking Action to Transform Food Systems
Anna Peach (2023-24 Iowa UNA College Ambassador from the University of Iowa)
September 29, International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction, is meant to encourage awareness of the tons of edible food that are lost or wasted every day. As defined by the Harvard School of Public Health, ‘food loss’ occurs before the food reaches the consumer due to challenges related to food production, storage, processing, and distribution. ‘Food waste’ occurs when food fit for consumption is discarded by consumers or food retailers.
Globally, thirteen percent of food is lost between harvest and retail. In individual homes, food service, and retail, seventeen percent of food is wasted. In the United States, the numbers are higher, with one-third of all available food being lost or wasted. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this is equal to approximately 133 billion pounds of food worth $161 billion. Reducing this food loss and waste is vital to the transformation of agricultural and food related industries to become more sustainable, increase global food security, and build resilience in communities.
Food that is currently wasted on the retail/ consumer level could address the problem of global food insecurity. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO), between 691 and 783 million people globally experienced hunger in 2022. According to an article in Scientific American, reducing food waste is a primary way to feed a growing global population without contributing to deforestation and other environmental problems. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also points out that wasted food could go to families in need.
Currently, wasted food is sent to landfills, which are the third largest human-related methane emission creator in the United States. This means that food waste has a massive negative impact on the environment and contributes to the climate crisis. Food loss and waste also represent inefficiencies in food production, transportation, and storage. According to CropLife International, food loss in these stages can be reduced through effective crop protection systems, appropriate storage, and the processing of excess produce.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) suggests many ways that we, the consumer, can reduce our food waste. These simple steps can make a big difference for your personal food waste reduction:
1. Picking ‘ugly’ fruits and veggies at the supermarket – These often get thrown away, even though they taste the same!
2. Storing food wisely – Moving new products to the back of your shelves and using airtight containers to keep food fresh in the fridge longer.
3. Love your leftovers – Refrigerate or freeze what you don’t eat or find a different way to utilize your leftovers with another meal.
4. Support local food producers – Buying from a local family farm helps to reduce pollution through transportation and supports small businesses!
5. Sharing is caring – Donate food to local food pantries or other food rescue organizations!
Reduction of food loss and waste in the US and abroad requires not only the action of consumers butchanges in policies, legislation, and private and public sector entities and individuals to prioritize actions and innovation that work to build better food systems.
Small actions can make a big difference in the global fight against food loss and waste. The Iowa United Nations Association encourages you to take action and work to increase awareness of the importance of this topic for both people and the planet. The Iowa Division of UNA-USA appreciates your action advocacy in transforming food systems.
You can find additional information and action steps at these sources: