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In secure food areas around the globe, the very act of food shopping, cooking, eating and trashing can be a mindless activity.  Little, if any, attention is paid to the way the food arrives on our grocer’s shelves, let alone the acts of harvesting, manufacturing, packaging, shipping and merchandising the food that sustains our daily lives.

It is therefore not surprising that there is little awareness of the amount of food that is lost and wasted along the entire food supply chain during production, distribution, consumption and disposal.  Yet the economic, social and environmental implications of this enormous food loss and waste are staggering, continue to grow and represent a real threat. It’s time to SAVE… for People, Personal Health, Planet & Pocketbook.

People
Worldwide, one in every seven people go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 people die of hunger every day. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, reducing food losses by just 15% would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans at a time when one in six lack a secure supply of food to their tables. Further, to the extent that good produce is going to waste early in supply chains (on farms, distribution and retail), we need to be smarter about recovering that nutritious food and either sell it at a low cost or donate to underserved people. The UN Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge has challenged governments to end hunger in his lifetime.

Personal Health
The seeming paradox to the hunger problem is that there are more overweight than underweight people in the world today. Increasingly large portion sizes, a proliferation of global fast food chains and take away/ready made meals and cheap non-nutritious options, including soda, are leading to major health problems such as obesity and diabetes. In the U.S., restaurant servings can be 2-8 times the portion sizes recommended by the government. 

WHO projects that by 2015 approximately 2.3 billion people internationally will be overweight and 700 million will be obese. 347 million people worldwide have diabetes and more than 80% of these live in low and middle income countries. By 2030 diabetes deaths will double. While the overall situation is complex, planning and preparing your own food and food for you family leads to less waste (food and packaging) and is healthier overall.

Planet
Awareness about food waste also goes to the heart of being a more conscious consumer. Let’s attempt to create a culture of sustainability. Unsustainable consumption depletes resources beyond regenerative capacity and subsequently causes other serious negative environmental impacts.

The global food system has profound implications for the environment and producing more food than is consumed only exacerbates the pressures, some of which follow:

  • More than 20 per cent of all cultivated land, 30 per cent of forests and 10 per cent of grasslands are undergoing degradation;
  • Globally 9 per cent of the freshwater resources are withdrawn, 70 per cent of this by irrigated agriculture;
  • Agriculture and land use changes like deforestation contribute to more than 30 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Globally, the agri-food system accounts for nearly 30 per cent of end-user available energy; and,
  • Overfishing and poor management contribute to declining numbers of fish, some 30 per cent of marine fish stocks are now considered over-exploited.

Pocketbook
Wasting food means wasting money in a big way both at the household level and in businesses throughout the supply chain – about $200 billion annually in industrialized regions to be exact. According to WRAP UK, the average UK family could save 680 pounds per year, and the hospitality industry (restaurants, pubs, hotels) a significant 724 million pounds.

Americans throw out the equivalent of $165 billion of good food each year and will toss a whopping $282 million of uneaten turkey into the trash at Thanksgiving. On average, they throw away 20 pounds of food each month, which amounts to about $1,560 a year for a family of four, about 10 per cent of the average food budget, according to United States Department of Agriculture. Cities like New York cart off 3 million tonnes of residential and commercial waste a year that ends up in landfills across the country at a cost of over $250 million.

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