The first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste: Stop food loss and waste for people and for the planet

The first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste: Stop food loss and waste for people and for the planet
Fao/Pier Paolo Cito

The white paper “Food Security in China” pointed out that the per capita direct consumption of food rations by Chinese residents has decreased, and the consumption of animal foods, woody foods, vegetables, melons and fruits and other non-food foods has increased, and the food is more diverse and the diet is healthier.

Today, 29 September 2020, marks the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, with the theme “Stop Food Loss and Waste for People and for the Planet”. This year, coronavirus disease 2019 is a wake-up call for the world: we must change and rebalance the way food is produced and consumed. 

In 2019, the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly designated 29 September as International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, recognizing “the important role that sustainable food production plays in promoting food security and nutrition.” ” 

In his message on the International Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the world to come together to reduce food loss and waste for the benefit of people and the planet. Food loss and waste is a serious ethical violation, he said. The world has enough food to feed everyone, but 690 million people still go hungry and 3 billion cannot afford healthy diets.

“Food loss and waste also waste natural resources – water, soil and energy, not to mention people and time,” Guterres said. Given that agriculture plays a large role in generating greenhouse gas emissions, this behavior can exacerbate climate change. ” 

Sustainable Development Goal 2 on achieving Zero Hunger and SDG 12, which calls for halving food waste and reducing food loss by 2030, reflect the serious concerns of the international community in this regard. 

“Many countries have already taken action, and we need to step up our efforts,” he stressed. The pandemic has highlighted the fragility of food systems and exacerbated food loss and waste in many countries. We need new approaches and solutions. ”

The first observance of International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste this year coincides with the preparation of the United Nations for the 2021 Food Systems Summit, Guterres said. He urged countries to set reduction targets aligned with SDG 12, measure and take bold action to reduce food loss and waste in their countries. Policy action in this area should also be included in the climate plan of the Paris Agreement. 

Guterres has called on businesses to take a similar approach. Individuals can carefully purchase and store food correctly and make proper use of surplus food.

Why is food loss and waste necessary? 

The United Nations notes that the number of people affected by hunger worldwide has been slowly rising since 2014. Globally, about 14% of food is lost between post-harvest and pre-retail. In retail and consumption, a lot of food is also wasted. In the case of fruits and vegetables, more than 20% is wasted. The annual use of surface and groundwater resources lost or wasted in food production is about 250 cubic kilometers, accounting for about 6% of total water withdrawals. 

As food is lost or wasted, all the resources used to produce it, including water, land, energy, labour and capital, are lost. In addition, disposing of lost and wasted food in landfills triggers greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to climate change.

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic continues to pose major challenges to food security in many countries. Supply chain disruptions, the closure of many hotels and restaurants, school closures… All of these measures have also led to the loss of markets for producers and distributors, which not only makes the situation even worse, but also makes tackling the problem of food waste more challenging. 

Downstream in the supply chain, supermarkets are often the main source of donations to food banks, and due to consumers’ rush and stockpiling, supermarkets are unable to ensure sufficient inventory to donate food to food banks. Due to misconceptions about the date labeling of food and improper storage, many foods purchased by families are discarded as food waste.

To this end, FAO notes that action is needed globally and locally to get the most out of the food we produce. Introducing technology and adopting innovative solutions, including e-commerce marketing platforms, adjustable mobile food processing systems, new ways of working, and good practices for managing food quality and reducing food loss and waste, are key to implementing this transformation. FAO also suggests 15 tips to reduce food waste. 

To mark the first International Day of Food Loss and Waste Awareness, UN Headquarters in New York today screened a documentary called “Wasted: the story of food waste”, in which celebrity chefs such as Anthony Bourdain will join food experts to discuss how to reduce food loss and waste. UN Environment also announced today the appointment of Italian celebrity chef and food systems activist Massimo Bottura as the organization’s Goodwill Ambassador.

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