As children many of us come to understand food waste when we were told some version of ‘children in need in far off places would appreciate the food we can’t or won’t eat’ as we stared guiltily down at our hated greens. Now imagine our parents’ surprise if we had responded ‘Actually, a substantial amount of food loss occurs before it even gets to the shop?’ The cold hard truth is food loss and food waste are global issues with a multitude of ramifications for people and the planet.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) ‘…around 14% of food produced is lost between harvest and retail, while an estimated 17 percent of total global food production is wasted (11 percent in households, 5 percent in the food service and 2 percent in retail).’
The FAO makes a distinction between food loss and food waste. Food loss refers to food which is lost from the harvest and during production and transportation. Food waste refers to the food that is wasted at a retail or consumer level. A huge number of resources are expended to bring our food from the farm to the table, and when produce is lost or wasted along the food supply chain, it means a portion of those resources have also been wasted. It is also worth considering that the land, water, energy and packaging used in food production, along with wasted food that is sent to landfill, all have a vast environmental impact.
29 September is the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (IDAFLW). First observed in 2020, the day calls on societies and individuals to ‘transform and rebalance the way our food is produced and consumed’.
While the magnitude of food loss is something which we need to tackle at an industrial level with governments, farmers, manufacturers distributors and researchers working together to reduce systematic loss and environmental abuse along the food supply chain, as individuals we can contribute to reducing food waste through some simple and straightforward actions such as:
- planning meals and only buying as much food as we need
- storing food wisely
- composting food scraps instead of sending them to landfill
- supporting local producers.
You can also find more suggestions in the FAO’s 15 quick tips for reducing food waste and becoming a food hero. The War on waste series hosted by Craig Reucassel—first aired on the ABC in 2017—also gives an informative look into Australian consumer habits and suggests measures we can take to reduce the amount of waste we produce.
Here at Griffith our Researchers have turned their attention to the issue of food waste and food security. You can explore some of their output on Griffith Research Online:
- Household food waste: Attitudes, barriers and motivations
- Thanks, but no thanks: The influence of gratitude on consumer awareness of food waste
- Consumer perspectives on household food waste reduction campaigns
- Systemic literature review of best practice in food waste reduction programs
- The impact of climate change on food crop productivity, food prices and food security in South Asia
- Local action with a global vision; The transformative potential of food social enterprises in Australia
This International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste remember it only takes a few little changes to help stop food waste, so what will you do?