Food: Ways of Reducing Food Waste

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Imagine a world with less hunger and enough food for everyone. Would you believe that a greater percentage of people worldwide is often very afraid to wake up the next day, not because they don’t want to live, but simply out of fear and uncertainty of putting a plate of food on their tables? Such a dicey situation can be very scary although, but it is indeed more disheartening to know that much of the food that is desperately needed by this vulnerable group facing existential threat is being wasted daily by some people, who have enough to throw away.

According to the United Nation’s report, one in nine people in the world goes to bed with an empty stomach, while one in three of the world’s population suffers from malnutrition. More worrisome, with drought, war, climate change, globalisation etc. affecting earth’s resources, chances are that the world will face more challenges as it battles with hunger. With these obvious threats in mind, the need for the reduction of food wastage cannot be underestimated.

The United Nations food agency found that nearly one-third of all global food production is wasted. That is equivalent to 1 billion tonnes of food wastage annually. Statistics reveal that consumers in industrialized countries waste almost 220 million tonnes yearly. Broken down per consumer, an average consumer in Europe and North America wastes 0.1 tonnes of food yearly. In Sub-Saharan Africa and most parts of Asia, the figures are between 0.006 and 0.001 tonnes respectively. According to many studies, fruits and vegetables are wasted more than other types of food.

The 2011 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) assessment discovered that food wastage starts at all stages of food supply chains, just from the firm to the consumption stage. In industrialized countries, more food is wasted in the processing, distribution, and consumption stages, whereas in low-income nations, it happens in the production and harvesting phases. Shockingly, 45 per cent of food in the US goes to waste in landfills. Often in the developed countries, food wastage occurs at the farm due to overproduction, during shipping and at retail outlets and home refrigerators.

Food thrown away is a tremendous waste of resources; it is equally not only an environmental hazard, but it is also a significant source of greenhouse gases, according to reports. The FAO found out that 30 per cent of wasted and lost food accounts for 8 per cent of greenhouse global gas emissions. Logically, when food is wasted, the water is wasted as well. For example, 24 per cent of water used for agriculture is lost through food wastage yearly, which is equal to 45 million gallons, according to the World Resources Institute. More than anything, any wasted food is money wasted as well. It is not uncommon that people buy food in bulk, in most cases, a significant percentage of the foot is not consumed. The wasted funds on food could have been used for other vital purposes.

From feeding otherwise millions of hungry human and animal mouths to making new soil or energy through composting and anaerobic digestion, the need to minimize food wastage has become increasingly necessary given global challenges.  There are other possible ways to achieve this.

1. Eat what you have first

Clear what you have in your refrigerator or store first before you shop for more products. Avoid overlooking what you have because you have a hankering for a new recipe or of the food you spotted in a shop. Make it a habit of shopping only after you have exhausted everything.

2. Shop smart

Make a shopping list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying which could easily lead to food waste. It is good also to refrain from buying in bulk instead, make frequent trips to the market/grocery/shop only when the product need has been exhausted.

3. Store leftovers

Whatever remains after every meal should be put in a safe place to be used next time. Ensure you store leftovers in a clear glass container so that you do not forget them. Besides, clear first the accumulated leftovers in your fridge before attempting to prepare another meal.

4. Know expiration dates

First and foremost, understand the differences between “sell by” and “expires on”. “Sell by” is a term used to indicate the time when the product should be sold or taken away from the shelves. On the other hand, “expires on” means the date consumers should use the products. You should note that labels do not mean the product is always harmful to eat after the expiration date. Certain products can still be eaten, depending on the length of the expiration date. Of course, you can easily use your eyes, nose, and fingers to determine whether a food is unsafe, fit for consumption or not.

5. Use freezer

Freeze your food to extend its lifeline. Frozen food can last longer than the unfrozen ones. The list of foods that can be frozen is long including leftovers, vegetables, and bulk meals such as soups and chilis.

6. Put a price tag on food waste

Before tossing out food remember the amount of money spent on it and the fact that there are millions of people whose lives can be changed with the food you want to throw away. If you could keep records of how often you throw away food and how much you paid for the food, then can easily appreciate the level of waste every year.

7. Use the paper towel trick

This method can be used to store leafy greens because a paper towel trick absorbs water, which causes them to become moist. The towel can be replaced when it gets wet with a new one.

8. Quarantine gassy produces

Some farm produces such as apples, avocados, tomatoes, peppers, and bananas release ethylene gas that causes fruits stored next to them to ripen faster. Keep away fruits and veggies that are susceptible to ethylene effects. Examples of produces that can easily be affected by the gas are grapes, lemons, and mangoes.

Food wastage is a common global challenge, which needs urgent attention to secure the lives of the future generation. The earlier we tackle the problem, the brighter and more secure our future becomes. if we care about one another and want to make this world a better place, we must make sure the limited food available should go round for everyone. Wasting food is hardly the way to achieve this global task.

From  Samuel Ouma