Food Tank: There is Big Food Waste, But Solutions are Emerging
According to Food Tank there is far too much food waste in
the world, and it’s happening in areas where people go hungry every day.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.3
billion tons of food is wasted globally each year.
Farmers Are Helping with Solutions
Throughout the United States, farmers are harnessing the power of
social media to get unsold produce onto plates. In California, one farmer grew tired of discarding produce that
came back from farmers markets and chose to advertise the leftovers on
The response was so enthusiastic, that the idea developed into a website
called CropMobster, where
farmers can connect with restaurants, hunger relief organizations, and other
companies to make use of food that would otherwise be wasted.
But Food waste is truly a global problem.
According to recent U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, roughly 133
billion pounds of food from stores, restaurants, and homes is wasted in
the U.S. each year.
In the U.K., up to 30 percent of vegetables never leave the farm because they
don’t meet the aesthetic standards of supermarkets.
In Latin America, average food waste amounts to more than 200 kilograms per
person per year.
Over 60 percent of the carbon footprint of food waste can be attributed to
Asia and North Africa.
Australian consumers throw away up to 20 percent of all food that they buy.
With an annual value of approximately US$4 billion, 10-20 percent of
Africa's grain harvest is lost after the harvest – and that amount is enough to
feed 48 million people.
The good news, however, is that in each of these regions, farmers are
developing, scaling up, and incorporating innovations in infrastructure,
technology, and farming practices that are reducing food waste on their farms –
or using it to nourish their crops.
In sub-Saharan Africa, farmers are implementing both sophisticated
and simple technologies to reduce post-harvest food waste, and keep food fresh
and presentable for market. In Tanzania, a SEED-awarded project undertaken
by Rift Valley Foods is using solar drying technologies to preserve produce
through dehydration at low cost, allowing farmers to sell once
time-sensitive produce when the market presents a better price. In Nigeria, a local teacher developed a simple
evaporative cooler to reduce spoilage by preserving harvested crops at lower
temperatures. And in Kenya, small metal silos without added pesticides
experience crop losses of only 1.4 percent, compared with polypropylene bags
with added pesticides that experience crop losses of 24 percent after six
In Asia, new research on best practices is helping small-scale
farmers limit food loss and repurpose on-farm waste. In the Philippines, the use of plastic crates for
transportation – instead of bags, sacks, and bamboo baskets – has been shown to
prevent food loss during transport due to compression, puncture, and impact. In
Central Asia, anaerobic digesters are creating a valuable fertilizer from
decomposed organic waste. According to a publication by IEA Bioenergy,
some 8 million small-scale digesters are being used in China, and 50,000
digesters are being used in rural communities in Nepal.
In Latin America, consumers’ food waste is being composted as
fertilizer for local farms. Maria Rodriguez, an entrepreneur in Guatemala City,
has helped women living near city dumps use earthworms to compost waste and
sell it as fertilizer under her ByoEarth initiative. On her own farm, she uses
pulp from coffee beans as feedstock for worms.
In Australia, the initiative SecondBite collects surplus food that is safe
and edible from farmers to donate to community groups, which then distributes
it to households. SecondBite has, to date, rescued nearly 8 million kilograms
of food that would have been otherwise wasted.
In Europe, initiatives like Tristram Stuart’s Feeding the 5000
are helping farmers connect with food pantries to repurpose safe and
nutritious, but “wonky”-looking, produce to nourish people in need. Volunteers
visit farms to glean crops that don’t meet the aesthetic standards of produce
buyers and supermarkets, so that they can be used for charity.
Each of these initiatives and inventions are examples of innovative action
that is helping farmers, eaters, and businesses contribute to a better food
Food Tank is
organization for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders,
researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and
donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our
most pressing environmental and social problems.
Labels: But Solutions are Emerging, Crop Mobster, Food Tank, Food Tank: There is Big Food Waste, the Food Think Tank