If you’re like most people, you probably consider yourself pretty conscious when it comes to food waste and food loss. You make an effort to finish your plate (or not load it so full to begin with) and maybe you even compost or donate your leftovers. But have you ever stopped to think about the true scope of the issue? The dilemma of food waste is far bigger than just what ends up in our rubbish bin. In fact, it’s a global problem with serious environmental and economic consequences. So let’s talk about food waste and food loss – what we really mean, why it matters, why it matters to me and what we can do about it. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!
Food waste and food loss – what are the differences between the two terms?
It’s no secret that food waste and food loss are two terms that we hear a lot, but do we know the difference between them? The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) has a great distinction: food waste is when edible items are not consumed because they are discarded, while food loss occurs when nutritious edibles are lost due to pests and diseases, harvesting, storage or during transit. In other words, one happens in the kitchen, or home, and the other happens on the farm or en route from the farm. So next time you’re sitting in front of your open pantry deciding whether the can of tomatoes from three years ago is still edible… perhaps you’ll think of this blog!
My fight to reduce food loss and waste
Did you know that Europe wastes an estimated 59 million tonnes of food each year? These figures add to the colossal amounts of food lost and wasted along the supply chain. If we want to reduce the amount of food wasted in Europe, we need to start taking steps towards better understanding how it is being lost — both in production and at home.
I find myself in a very privileged situation as during the day I try my best to advocate for solutions to reduce food loss and I consciously work hard to reduce my food waste at home.
When it comes to food losses in the field – I work for an association that represents organisations that provide solutions to protect crops from pests and diseases. FAO estimates that up to 40% of yields gets lost to pests and diseases every year. Thanks to the increasing sophistication of farming practice and technology over time, farmers now have access to a number of different solutions to protect crops from pests and diseases and fight food loss, i.e. pesticides or biopesticides.
More importantly many farmers are now relying on integrated pest management (IPM) strategies that take into account not just chemical treatments, but also techniques such as crop rotation. Other farmers have even been incorporating high-tech approaches such as drones for monitoring fields for potential pest risks. All in all, with these strategies in place and more being developed as we speak, it’s clear that modern agriculture is serious about fighting food loss by keeping pests and diseases at bay. But the fight isn’t won yet, pests and disease continue to evolve and pest pressure only increases with the effects of climate change. So the pipeline of innovative solutions need to continue.
Back in Italy, where I come from, my family taught me the value of food – and especially how important it is to avoid any food waste. The first lesson I learnt growing up was about quantity and portions. To waste less, buy less – starting with food. Only buy and cook what you think you will eat. And that’s where meal planning can really help you to make your grocery shopping more efficient. Knowing exactly which items you need before going to the store, means you’re less likely to be tempted to buy unnecessary food.
Another trick? Look out for the difference between expiration dates and best before dates. While the first one tells consumers the last day a product is safe to consume, best before date on the other hand tells you that the food is no longer in its perfect shape from that date.
And even if all of this will not prevent you from having some leftovers, it can be a chance to experiment with some new recipes! You’ll be surprised to see how many things you can cook with leftovers. For example, have you ever tried frittata di pastausing leftover pasta? Simply delicious! Quiche, or any sort of savory pie of your choice, can be another easy way to empty your fridge from food about to expire – vegetables, diary, proteins of all sorts, there’s no limit to your creativity.
And try to set yourself a limit – nothing spoils faster than fresh produce or dairy, so if you find yourself buying fruits and veggies on impulse only for them to go bad a few days later, it’s time to hit pause on the food shop for a bit.
What we gotta do
Fighting food waste and loss is for everyone.
We, as consumers, need to take responsibility for our own consumption behaviours to reduce food waste – from managing the grocery shop, optimising portion sizes at mealtime, to repurposing leftovers.
Farmers in their fight against pests and diseases, need access to modern technologies and reliable connections with input and output markets to reduce food loss and prevent further damages to crop yields.
No one wants to get rid of food when someone out there is going hungry, yet 1/3 of the food produced in the world gets lost or wasted. For me it’s a clear call to action and that’s why I try to fight loss and waste every day. Let’s all play our part!
This article was originally published on LinkedIn at the following link