Reducing Food Loss Can Be Life Changing

Food Loss

Did you know that every day tons and tons of food, fresh, edible, and delicious food, are being thrown away? Tons and tons of vegetables end up in landfills even though they are perfectly fine for consumption. Once the food ends up in the landfill instead of composting or decomposing, they just produce dangerous gases that can accelerate the process of global warming. Food loss is a serious issue worldwide, while we are throwing away tons of food every day, there are people starving and malnutrition. Not only is food loss bad for the environment, climate change, and people overall. However, if I told you there is a way to help alleviate such a problem, would you participate and make a difference? By reducing food loss and food waste, you are contributing and doing something that can change someone else’s life.

Before we jump into the heroic act, it is best that we all understand the situation and why reducing food loss is important and needed.

What is Food Loss?

So what is food loss? Food loss is when food that was intended for human consumption instead gets discarded before consumers have a chance to eat it. However, depending on the organizations there is a variation of the definition. According to NGO World Resources Institute,

food loss [is] food that has become unfit for human consumption before it reaches the consumer

(What is food loss and food waste?)

While the United Nations defines food loss as

food that gets spilled, spoilt or other lost, or incurs reduction of quality and value during its process in the food supply chain before it reaches its final product stage. Food loss typically takes place at production, post-harvest, processing, and distribution stages in the food supply chain

(Definition of food loss and waste).
For those of you wondering then what is the definition of food waste.

Difference between Food Loss and Food Waste

Food loss: oranges rotting away
Food loss and food waste are different, the difference is quite distinct. Food waste is when “food that completes the food supply chain up to a final product, of good quality and fit for consumption, but still doesn’t get consumed because it is discarded, whether or not after it is left to spoil or expire. Food waste typically (but not exclusively) takes place at retail and consumption stages in the food supply chain”(Definition of food loss and waste). Meaning it could be food that is in the supermarket but because no one buys them, they get thrown out. While food loss is more about food that produces but does not look as well such as making it harder to sell and thus is thrown away. Either way, a lot of food is being wasted and discarded, which has a negative impact on the environment, and while there are millions of people who don’t have enough food.

What causes a large amount of food loss?

Oftentimes when we go to supermarkets, we see leaps and leaps of fruits, vegetables, and meat ready for the customers to buy. However, what happens to the food, when the store closes? Most of the time, these unsold, perfectly good food are being thrown away and shipped to landfills to rot. The next day, a whole new bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables are piled up and those that aren’t sold are thrown away. That might seem like a lot of food is being thrown away, but in reality, much more is being thrown away. The amount of food loss before the food reaches the supermarket is just as much.

So why is it possible that there is so much food loss? Oftentimes farmers are producing much more than necessary and those that don’t meet the standards are often thrown always directly on the field. Due to excessive amounts of food being produced, stores and retail can afford to throw them away, it is much easier and cheaper just to dump the food. These are just some of the reasons why there is so much food loss every day.

Reducing food loss is life changing

Kid in the landfill
Food loss is a serious issue that people all over the world are facing. In fact, food loss and food waste are part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, 12.3, where the goal is to reduce food loss by half and food waste by half too. By reducing food loss, countries can alleviate the issues with food security and climate change.

By reducing food loss and food waste that ends up in the landfill can reduce the amount of landfill gas (Methane and Carbon dioxide) that is produced when food is being trashed with heat and no air circulation. Both of these gases are greenhouse gases, which is a big part of global warming and climate change. So by reducing the amount of food loss in the landfills, we are essentially reducing the number of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

Another way for reducing food loss to save lives is to give food to people that can’t afford it. Instead of throwing away perfectly edible food just because they won’t sell or don’t look as appealing, give those to lower-income families who have a hard time, it could save their life. It can also reduce the amount of hunger that is happening. As mentioned before, kilos of good food are being thrown away, when they could be donated to homeless shelters or people in need. Not only are you reducing food loss, reducing the accumulation of greenhouse gases, you are also saving one else’s life.

How can you reduce food waste?

You must be thinking, well most of these food losses happen in the food supply chain right, so it is not related to you, right? Yes and no. Yes because they do mostly happen in stores, restaurants, or at the farmers, however, the piles and heaps of food are displayed to appeal to you.

According to a story done by John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, when interviewing a street vendor, people would rather buy vegetables when there is a full stock of it, than when there is only a few left. Also food waste doesn’t happen only during the food supply chain, in fact, everyone produces food waste. One way is when you buy more food than you need, you buy in bulk, however, the food expires before you have the chance to eat and you just throw it away. That is also food waste and those are going to end up in landfills. Or you go to the restaurant and order too much food, towards the end, you just take a bite and leave the rest.

In order to reduce food loss, it is an effort that needs to happen on both the individuals and the corporations. It is something that everyone needs to work together.

Let us together make a difference

Reduce the amount of food waste
I hope this article opened your eyes a little bit about the problem of food loss. This is a problem that happens in almost every country. While much of the issues are caused by corporations and lack of regulations. As individuals, there are ways we can help, donate to organizations that try to rescue food loss, and provide food to those that need it. Buy the food you need and can finish, try not to buy in bulk unless necessary. Instead of throwing your food waste in the trash, properly dispose of them by contacting your local compost service or make your own compost at home. Also, support regulations or laws that can alleviate the amount of food loss.
Find out more about how you can make a difference to the food loss with organizations like Feeding America. Check out their website to learn more or you could watch John Oliver’s Food Loss story too!
Curious to know more about food loss and how it differs from food waste?

Resources:
“Definition of Food Loss and Waste.” ThinkEatSave. Web. 14 Aug. 2020.
“What Is Food Loss and Food Waste?” Food Source. Web. 14 Oct. 2020.
               
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!