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Report – Reducing Food Loss and Waste (Report by UNEP)

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  • Published
    27th Sep, 2019
  • The following summary of the titled Report – Reducing Food Loss and Waste by UNEP is in one among the series of summaries created by GSSCORE on various reports.
  • The report gives us a brief idea on How “Reducing Food Loss and Waste” Performs Against the Sustainable Food Future Criteria, The World Resources Report, Food loss and waste can occur at each stage of the food value chain, Possible Approaches to save the food, The Role of Women in Reducing Food Loss and Waste, Case Study: SecondBite (Australia), Some Leading Food Loss and Waste Reduction Initiatives, Conclusion.

Reports are important topic both for UPSC Preliminary as well as Mains. So going through the GSSCORE summary of the report becomes imperative for UPSC aspirants. Students can download the gist of this report from the Free Resources section of GS SCORE website: https://iasscore.in/free-study-material-downloads

  • A new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation has quantified global food wastage nearly one-third of the food that is produced each year goes uneaten, costing the global economy over $940 billion.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 32 percent of all food produced in the world was lost or wasted in 2009.
  • This estimate is based on weight. When converted into calories, global food loss and waste amounts to approximately 24 percent of all food produced. Essentially, one out of every four food calories intended for people is not ultimately consumed by them.
  • Food loss and waste have many negative economic and environmental impacts. Economically, they represent a wasted investment that can reduce farmers’ incomes and increase consumers’ expenses. Environmentally, food loss and waste inflict a host of impacts, including unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and inefficiently used water and land, which in turn can lead to diminished natural ecosystems and the services they provide.
  • It is estimated that saving one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world, of which the highest number are in India.
  • To further galvanize commitment to reducing food loss and waste, several cross-cutting strategies are needed.
  • These strategies will require action from multilateral and bilateral donors, intergovernmental agencies, national governments, and the private sector, among others.
  1. Develop a food loss and waste measurement protocol
  2. Set food loss and waste reduction targets
  3. Increase investment in reducing postharvest losses in developing countries
  4. Create entities devoted to reducing food waste in developed countries
  5. Accelerate and support collaborative initiatives to reduce food loss and waste
  • “Food loss and waste” refers to the edible parts of plants and animals that are produced or harvested for human consumption but that are not ultimately consumed by people.
  • “Food loss” refers to food that spills, spoils, incurs an abnormal reduction in quality such as bruising or wilting, or otherwise gets lost before it reaches the consumer.
  • Food loss is the unintended result of an agricultural process or technical limitation in storage, infrastructure, packaging, or marketing.
  • “Food waste” refers to food that is of good quality and fit for human consumption but that does not get consumed because it is discarded—either before or after it spoils. Food waste is the result of negligence or a conscious decision to throw food away.
  • The world’s agricultural system faces a great balancing act among three needs. By mid-century, it needs to simultaneously close a gap of more than 60 percent between food available now and food required in 2050, help advance economic and social development, and reduce agriculture’s impact on the environment.
  • This balancing act poses one of the paramount questions of the next 40 years: How can the world adequately feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 in a manner that advances social and economic development while reducing pressure on ecosystems, climate, and water resources?
  • During production or harvest in the form of grain left behind by poor harvesting equipment, discarded fish, and fruit not harvested or discarded because they fail to meet quality standards or are uneconomical to harvest.
  • During handling and storage in the form of food degraded by pests, fungus, and disease.
  • During processing and packaging in the form of spilled milk, damaged fish, and fruit unsuitable for processing. Processed foods may be lost or wasted because of poor order forecasting and inefficient factory processes.
  • During distribution and marketing in the form of edible food discarded because it is non-compliant with aesthetic quality standards or is not sold before “best before” and “use-by” dates.
  • During consumption in the form of food purchased by consumers, restaurants, and caterers but not eaten.
  • Food redistribution: Food redistribution or donation programs are a method for reducing both food loss and waste. As used here, “food redistribution” means voluntarily giving away food that otherwise would be lost or wasted to recipients such as food banks, which then redistribute the food to those who need it.
  • Evaporative coolers: Evaporative coolers extend the shelf life of food and avoid spoilage by keeping food at lower-than-room temperatures without having to use electricity. This lowcost, low-energy technique provides an opportunity to store perishable foods longer in areas that lack electricity infrastructure or that has low-income farmers.
  • Plastic storage bags: Damage from pests is a major source of food loss during the handling and storage phase of the supply chain. Take cowpeas for instance. The crop is important for many smallholder farmers due to the cowpeas’ ability to adapt to dry, hot conditions.
  • Small metal silos: Small metal silos, which are intended for use by one farmer or by one household and generally hold between 250–1000 kg of crops, can be an effective strategy for reducing food loss at the storage stage, especially for cereals and pulses. Insufficient storage is a major source of food loss for farmers, especially in developing countries, where storage structures often do not keep harvested crops in hermetic or airtight conditions.
  • Plastic crates: Using plastic crates instead of other forms of containerization has demonstrated significant reductions in food losses during handling and storage, particularly among fruits, vegetables, and other forms of fresh produce. In developing countries, 19 percent of fruit and vegetable loss occurs in the handling and storage stage of the food value chain.
  • Food date labeling: Dates provided on the packaging of food and drinks, such as “use-by,”“sell-by,” and “best before,” is intended to provide consumers with information regarding the freshness and safety of foods. However, these seemingly simple dates can actually confuse consumers about how long it is safe for them to store food and when they should dispose of uneaten items.
  • Consumer awareness campaigns: Consumer attitudes and behavior play a large role in determining the amount of food that is wasted in households. Although changing the way people consume and throw out food can be difficult, communication campaigns can help influence consumer behavior at the household level.
  • Reduced portion sizes: For restaurants and other food service providers, food portion sizes can dictate the amount of food waste that occurs within the four walls of their business, since larger portions increase the likelihood that a consumer will not consume all of the food purchased. Reducing portion sizes for consumers in both direct and indirect ways can both decrease food waste and save money for food providers.
  • Women in both developing and developed countries have an important role to play in reducing food loss and waste, since women interact with food at each stage of the value chain from farm to fork.
  • Close to the farm, women comprise 41 percent of the agricultural workforce worldwide and make up the majority of agricultural workers in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Close to the fork, surveys in a wide range of countries show that women are responsible for 85-90 percent of the time spent on household food preparation. Therefore, targeting women in food loss and food waste reduction campaigns could result in greater reductions than pursuing an unfocused campaign.
  • One such gender-targeted initiative in Tanzania focused on providing female farmers with greater access to markets and supplied participants with access to solar drying technology that allowed for surplus fruits that might other be lost to be dried and preserved.
  • Another campaign in Australia called “1 Million Women” encourages women to take action on a number of environmental issues, including reducing food waste. The campaign has hosted events with a celebrity chef to raise awareness of food waste, and its official website provides tips on how to reduce waste and recipes for how to efficiently use food.


  • In Australia, the nonprofit organization SecondBite facilitates food donation by linking farmers and retailers with community groups and food banks.
  • SecondBite effectively functions as a broker, first collecting food from donors and then distributing it among community groups that are already aware of where hunger and malnutrition are most prevalent.
  • In this way, SecondBite draws upon existing knowledge and expertise of other organizations to further its mission.
  • SecondBite also works with state governments in Australia to introduce Good Samaritan Acts to promote food donation.
  • In 2012, SecondBite rescued and redirected 3,000 metric tons of fresh food that otherwise would have been lost or wasted.
  • An amazing 24 percent of all food calories grown today are lost or wasted between the farm and the fork.
  • This fact is ultimately a failure of economic and natural resource efficiency. The world faced an analogous failure of efficiency in the 1970s with energy.
  • In the face of record oil prices and growing demand, the world essentially declared war on energy wastefulness and significantly improved its energy efficiency.
  • Yet a “war on waste” has yet to be waged when it comes to food. Given that food prices recently hit historic highs and global food demand continues to rise, now is the time.

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