If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitting country globally. Worldwide, over ⅓ of all food produced goes to waste.
Food is a fundamental need and a right. It's a product, a meal, a source of nutrition—it's also fundamentally linked to culture, heritage, identity and integration. The ability of people to feed themselves with dignity is a long-standing international human right to which many countries are committed.
Food waste in the UK
According to the British charity WRAP,
The UK still throws away around 4.5 million tonnes of food waste in a single year – even though 8.4 million people in the UK are in food poverty, and according to Marie Curie, £90,000 people die in poverty every year.
Economically, this equals £14 billion worth of wasted food each year.
" If our society continues to waste good food at current levels, we will not only undermine efforts to ensure food security for all; we will fatally undermine our ability to tackle the climate emergency. Now more than ever, we have no time for food waste. That is why we are urging more companies to commit to full transparency and publish their food waste data. "
Sir Dave Lewis, former Tesco CEO and former Chair of Champions 12.3
Although the figures for the UK are still high, the country has made some headway. In 2020 the UK was the first country to get more than halfway toward meeting the SDG Target 12.3 of halving food waste by 2030. Between 2007 and 2018, the UK reduced its national levels by 27%. Key to the UK's success has been the commitment of supermarkets and the food industry. Several companies such as Tesco (Central Europe), Campbell's, and Arla Foods have achieved food loss and waste reductions of more than 30%. However, the biggest UK retailers send less than 10% of their unsold food to feed people.
With just ten years to go, the world is behind where it needs to be to achieve SDG Target 12.3 and SDG Target 2.1 to end hunger by 2030.
Food waste is responsible for 8% of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions
Despite the waste of money, food waste presents a significant problem due to the volume of waste produced each year. The majority of food waste ends up in a landfill site. While many people do not view this as an issue as food items degrade naturally over time, it contributes to global warming as food waste releases methane gas as it breaks down.
Food waste is a social issue
Food wastage also represents a social issue. When food poverty exists in countries like the UK, as highlighted by campaigns and well-known figures like Marcus Rashford, and globally where thousands of people go without fresh produce and groceries daily, we can all contribute.
The social entrepreneurs
Globally social entrepreneurs within local communities are doing their bit to raise awareness and change behaviours. In Cumbria, the foodie town of Kirkby Lonsdale has established itself as a mecca for great food and drink in more ways than one. Through the Kirkby Lonsdale Community Cupboard, the Food Club is doing their bit for food waste, working through Fareshare, the UK's biggest food redistribution charity. While The Zero Pantry is driving the waste message home on the main street.
During May, you can also follow @the_horseback_adventurer (found on Insta) Clare has just set off around the Lake District fells meeting farmers who inspire her with their nature-friendly farming production methods.
Food is a common thread linking all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, is a benchmarking model gauging the sustainability of food systems globally across environmental, societal and economic dimensions and three pillars: food loss and waste; sustainable agriculture; and nutritional challenges.
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