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From Canada to China: NGOs strive to reduce food waste

October 25th, 2021
topics: Food Security
by: Isaja Karadakovska
located in: Canada, USA, China, India, United Kingdom
tags: climate crisis, food insecurity, food waste, NGO

Despite recurring pledges by governments and international organisations, food insecurity remains a worldwide crisis. In 2020 alone, between 720 and 811 million people faced hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States. And yet, food-waste rates continue to soar, with tonnes of food being thrown away every year.

The reasons behind food waste are varied. Restaurants, for instance, might be required to toss food away because of food safety regulations, while consumers usually lack the knowledge and organisation to utilise all the food they buy. 

Still, food waste should not happen, certainly not on this scale, and cannot be justified.

Luckily, many NGOs worldwide cooperate with grassroots movements that focus on food waste reduction. 

Canada 

According to statistics compiled by Reviewlution, food waste in Canada creates 56.6 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions. What’s more is that 4.82 million tonnes of food get lost in the manufacturing process. Food waste also harms the environment due to methane released from food tossed in landfills. 

On the other hand, 1.4 million Canadian kids don’t have access to healthy food. 

Food waste is a severe problem in Canada, and it ranks among the biggest food wasters globally. 

Many NGOs offer solutions to and try to tackle food waste in Canada. Second Harvest, for instance, recovers fresh unsold food with the purpose of providing hunger relief and protecting the environment. This organisation distributes food to a broad network of social service organisations. 

Then, there’s Zero Waste Canada, which focuses on reducing waste through improved industrial design and education. It advocates for responsible source management and policies, legislations and initiatives to eliminate waste.

United States 

In 2018, there were 103 million tonnes of wasted food in the US, which demonstrates that food waste is a growing issue in the country. Food wasted annually has an average value of about $161 billion. What’s more, food waste is the number one material in US landfills

When it comes to the repercussions, US landfills are the third-largest industrial emitter of methane, accounting for 8 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Food Recovery Network is an NGO similar to Canada’s Second Harvest. The difference between the two is that the former focuses on campuses. It unites students, recovers food surplus from campuses and donates it to those in need. 

Divert is another NGO in the US that collects food surplus, but focuses on retail supply chains. Divert also recycles food waste that can’t be sent to food banks. 

United Kingdom 

Based on data from October 2021, over 85 percent of wasted food in the UK comes from households and food manufacturing facilities. Food wasted annually in the UK has an estimated value of £19 billion and is responsible for about 36 million tonnes of GHG emissions. 

Other environmental issues include the use of land, water and fuel associated with food delivery. And despite the fact that there has been about a 15 percent reduction in food waste in the UK, more needs to be done. 

One of the best solutions to this problem is growing food locally and encouraging people to devote some time to community gardening and horticultural projects. That’s what Edible York charity does, while also collecting, storing and distributing fruit to residents. 

The Felix Project, a London-based initiative, also collects food that cannot be sold and delivers it to charities and schools to help them provide healthier meals. 

Brazil 

When it comes to food waste statistics for Brazil, the latest available data shows that 7.2 million people died of starvation in the country. Still, the amount of wasted food would be enough to achieve food security. Overall, 26 million tonnes of food are wasted in Brazil annually. 

The biggest problem seems to be lack of access to food and not food availability, and hunger rates remain high in the country. As with other countries, food waste causes enormous harm to the environment in Brazil. 

The main issue with NGOs and large retailers in Brazil is the lack of trust, which is why stores refuse to donate food. At the same time, NGOs lack the right mechanisms for food collection. Still, some fight through. For example, Mesa Brasil SESC is a food bank that redistributes wasted food to Brazilian communities. 

Favela Organica is another organisation that delivers food while also keeping wasted food away from landfills. In addition, this organisation raises awareness among consumers and changes their relationship with food through education. 

China

China is included in the list of nations battling a serious food waste problem. At the moment, about 6 percent of China’s total food production is lost or wasted - enough to feed 30 to 50 million people. Moreover, half of the wasted food is thrown away at the last stage of the supply chain: retail or consumption. 

Repercussions of China’s food waste are related to increased water, energy and land consumption. Just like with other countries, food rotting in landfills also produces considerable amounts of methane in China. 

China is aware of its severe food waste problems, and launched a Clean Plate campaign aimed at reducing waste. The Wuhan Catering Industry Association also urged restaurants to limit the number of dishes served to groups of people and serve one less plate on the table. 

On the other hand, WWF and Winnow are also involved in helping the hospitality sector manage and reduce food waste in China. 

India

In India, about 40 percent of produced food is thrown away. It is also estimated that the value of wasted food reaches ₹92,000 crores annually

Unfortunately, there are still 190 million starving Indians. India’s inefficient food supply chains are mainly to blame, but households are also somewhat responsible. 

Food waste worsened during the peak of the pandemic, as the surplus stocks of grains started rotting away across the country. At the same time, food became scarce for the poor. 

Even though most issues derive from the inefficiency of the supply chain, most Indians also lack awareness when it comes to food waste. This is why Feeding India runs an expansive volunteer-network and provides vital information to individuals who can tackle hunger on a local level. 

Teqball India also launched a community scheme that reduces food waste and manages hunger. It helps redistribute food surplus to those in need. 

Shared responsibility calls for coordinated action 

Food waste is a global problem. Not one country is immune to the issue, and for this reason every nation must do its best to tackle it. At the moment, there are two main instances where food gets wasted: during production and in households. 

Luckily, NGOs continuously work on building positive relationships with retailers and consumers. These organisations also collect healthy but wasted food and deliver it to communities, keeping it off the landfills and gradually reducing hunger at the same time. 

NGOs, however, cannot shoulder the burden on their own, and need to be supported by policy, legislation and civic engagement efforts. As with most global crises, when it comes to food waste we all bear responsibility, and therefore must all act. 

Image by Radowan Nakif Rehan

Article written by:
1622386523931
Isaja Karadakovska
Author
Canada USA China India United Kingdom
Assorted vegetables, which were to be disposed of by a supermarket, sit in a crate at food-waste charity's warehouse in Park Royal in London, England.
© Jack Taylor/Getty Images
In India, the value of wasted food reaches ₹92,000 crores annually.
© Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images
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