Always on the forefront of our developing world and the future of food, the National Geographic last year ran an insightful (and alarming) article on food waste and how by simply readdressing what we constitute as ugly or imperfect food, we could actually be feeding billions.
To highlight this struggle, herewith snippets of the article to show how global food standards are effecting waste:
- It is estimated that nearly 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger.
- According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), globally we waste 2.9 trillion pounds of food a year – that would be enough to feed the hungry twice over.
- In developing countries, much of the food is lost post-harvest due to lack of storage or proper transport – in developed nations, the majority of food waste occurs higher up in the food chain with supermarkets and consumers.
- Food waste takes an environmental toll as well – globally a year’s production of uneaten food uses as much water as the entire annual flow of Europe’s Volga River; and if food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world after China and the US.
- Globally 46% of fruits and vegetables won’t make it from farm to fork and one of the biggest reasons is grade standards – while these were developed to provide growers and buyers with a common language for evaluating produce, many supermarkets have run amok setting their own ridiculously high aesthetic standards, with a large portion of produce falling short.
- And often a supermarket’s rejection of food for aesthetic reasons is actually a cover-up for inaccurate forecasting or a drop in sales and the grower is expected to carry that loss.
- British food waste activist, Tristram Stuart, discovered in Kenya that a farmer was forced by European cosmetic standards to reject 40 tons a week of green beans, broccoli, sugar snap peas and runner beans – that’s enough food to feed 250,000 people. The much publicised images led to UK grocers slightly modifying the approval process and agreeing to bear the cost of cancelled orders.
- To draw further attention to the global food waste scandal, in 2009 Stuart began a flagship campaign event called Feeding the 5000, a delicious meal for 5000 people made entirely out of food that would otherwise have gone to waste – since then, the annual event has been held in countries across the world.
The article goes on to say that as governments across the globe worry about how we plan to feed nine billion people by the year 2050, perhaps rather than putting further strain on dwindling natural resources in the procurement of desperately needed food, we should look at making changes and slashing waste – that way ‘we may be able to feed more than nine billion people a healthy diet without trashing more rain forests, plowing up more prairies, or wiping out more wetlands’.
Something to keep in mind the next time you see a crooked carrot or slightly blemished apple, don’t you think?!