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FOOD WASTE, A PROBLEM TO BE TACKLED NOW

06/12/2021

Since 2011, when FAO first presented the estimate that around one third of the world’s food was lost or wasted every year, the global perception of this issue has very much changed becoming a matter of public concern. In order to raise awareness and to promote global efforts and collective actions towards finding possible solutions at all levels, the United Nations General Assembly designated 29 September as the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (IDAFLW). Still, we seem to be rather far away from meeting the Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3, which aims at halving per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030 and reduce food losses along the food production and supply chains.

To fully understand the true extent of the problem, we should first clarify the difference between food loss and food waste. According to FAO, food loss is “the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers, food service providers and consumers”. Food that literally gets lost in every stage of food production, from crops left in the fields to food that spoils during transportation. Food waste, instead, “refers to the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers”. In the words of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS), it is “food discarded by retailers due to color or appearance and plate waste by consumers.” Every half-eaten meal left on the plate, any food scraps from preparing a meal is food waste.

Academic as it may sound, this distinction helps us understand how every single one of us is involved. For the vast majority of people on this planet, food is a given. Even more so for us who deal with it on a daily basis. Still, as World Hunger is on the rise, today food is not a guarantee for over 820 million people in the world. Many studies suggest that one of the macro-level drivers of the food waste problem is the difficulty of converting consumer awareness into action yet we cannot help but feeling that we all should play our part.

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