Building awareness on Food Loss and Waste.
The road towards integral ecological regeneration.
Just as the agri-food system is an entangled, multifaceted ecosystem, so too are the challenges and dysfunctions triggered by it.
Food loss and waste is, without any doubt, one of the most evident results of the paradoxes of the current paradigm, which is unable to value an essential resource for survival and to correctly manage its conservation and distribution.
It is widely known now that globally one-third of food produced is then wasted. Actually, according to more updated data provided by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 40% of fresh produce goes to waste, with high probability that the real numbers are even more troubling
In a world increasingly poor in natural resources, increasingly tested by the depletion of soil and biodiversity, increasingly damaged by excessive and anthropogenic greenhouse gases, victim of severe economic crises, and especially witnessing radical polarization between access and scarcity of food, we can not afford to waste or lose food in the fields.
WHY IS BUILDING AWARENESS Of FOOD LOSS AND WASTE RELEVANT?
Food is producers and consumers. It’s local and global. It is financial growth and regeneration. It is seasonality, landscape, nature, and hard work, all the energy of those behind the agri-food system.
Yet, after the second world war, progress, abundance, hectic lifestyle, and the culture of aesthetics have gradually distanced eaters from food producers, farmers from the natural rhythms, and work from decent working standards. This has drastically lengthened the chain that composes and connects the agri-food system.
The result is that food is now being treated and conceived as a commodity to be always available, always perfect and beautiful, compromising agrobiodiversity, nutrition, taste, equal access to food, planetary boundaries, greenhouse gas emission, and climate change.
It is an approach that comes at the expense of our own survival and in the end, is still economically unsustainable.
In fact, according to the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), the 21% reduction in household food waste in the UK resulted in an economic return of £250 for every pound invested in the national food waste reduction plan.
Tackling food loss and waste means reversing the current paradigm to embrace a more efficient, sustainable, and regenerative agri-food system.
Preventing and reducing food loss and waste in fact initiates the path towards food security, food safety, nutritional equality, food diplomacy, ecosystem balance, but also collective prosperity and food identity.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FOOD LOSS AND FOOD WASTE?
When talking about food loss and waste, their distinction is not immediately clear, just as the plurality of actors and inefficiencies that lie behind the complex agri-food system as a whole.
Therefore, the road to increase awareness has to start from the basics: what exactly is the difference between food loss and food waste?
Food Loss generally refers to the inefficiencies (decrease of quantity or quality of food) of the supply chain from the field to processing stages. It includes food losses that happen during harvesting, post-harvesting, slaughter, transport, and storage. Losses due to mechanical damage in the field, degradation during handling, damages that happen during the washing, peeling, storage, and transportation are all possible causes of food loss.
Food Waste, instead, refers to the inefficiencies (decrease of quantity or quality of food) of the supply chain from the retail to the final consumption. It then includes the distribution phase, the actions of retailers, food service providers, and consumers. Under food waste, we can imagine the elimination of undesired products based on their appearance, elimination of food before their “best before” days, or throwing away leftovers in households.
According to the report of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems, 61% of food waste is generated in households, 26% in food services and 13% at the retail stage.
UNRAVELLING COMPLEXITIES: THE FOOD FOR EARTH APPROACH
It is today, on the occasion of the United Nations Food System Summit in New York and from the shared need to restore agri-food systems from the ground up, that we begin a series of articles aimed at delving into the complexities that feed dangerous inefficiencies in the agri-food system.
We start from September and from Food Loss and Waste intentionally: next week we will celebrate the second World Food Loss and Waste Awareness Day, while the Group of 20 (G20) agriculture meeting has just ended in Florence.
These are two appointments that have seen the Future Food Institute actively involved in different ways and forms. We were present that July 2019 day in the Glass Palace of the United Nations in New York, together with the courageous Microstates of Andorra and San Marino, to share the urgency to adopt methods to reduce food loss and waste; an appointment followed by the magical resolution adopted unanimously on December 19 by the United Nations General Assembly, that formally established September 29th as International Food Loss and Waste Awareness Day.
Equally, we have been supporting the Italian challenge leading, with its presidency, the G20 and co-presidency of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) with a series of G20 side events, meetings, Boot Camps, and educational paths. According to the 2021 Food Sustainability Index (FSI), G20 countries are setting more and more clear targets to address food loss and waste.
But we cannot relegate these issues only to the meeting of and between governments. We also need local policies that know how to look at these challenges with courage and foresight, combining urban and rural, tourism and food, environmental and economic development. We cannot expect to raise awareness and move the needle towards more equitable, sustainable, and regenerative food systems without understanding the plurality of dimensions, actors, challenges, and complexities to surmount the veil of oversimplification that impedes genuine progress.
The Food for Earth approach is the Future Food Institute toolbox to understand and unravel complexities and interconnections generated by food and through food, connecting food producers, distributors, and consumers, with the rest of the global community. It is an instrument, officially presented at the 3rd International Conference on Economics and Social Sciences in Bucharest, that is addressed to policymakers, food authorities, food managers, local governments, urban planners, scholars, youths, cooks, startups, and business people to restore the balance between humanity-environment-culture-health, and implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The five areas that compose the Food for Earth, specifically; climate-smart ecosystems, circular living, food identity, prosperity, and food diplomacy, will be the subjects of five different articles, in which the challenge of food loss and waste will be read through their lenses and layers of complexities, both at the global and local stages.
The road towards integral ecological regeneration starts from today.