730 million Face Hunger Amid Wastage of Billion Meals Daily

March 27, 2024
Meals Wasted Daily

By Adedapo Adesanya

The United Nations has revealed that more than a billion meals are thrown away every day, despite more than 730 million people living in hunger around the world.

According to the UN Food Waste Index report, published on Wednesday, 20 per cent of food is wasted, sometimes through profligacy or poor planning, sometimes from a lack of access to refrigeration or storage.

The food waste comes at a global cost of about $1 trillion a year.

A breakdown showed that households are responsible for most of the world’s food waste – about 60 per cent of the 1 billion tonnes of food thrown away annually.

The report also noted that commercial food systems are also a substantial contributor: food services accounted for 28 per cent of waste, and retail for about 12 per cent in 2022, the latest data available.

It was also noted that 13 per cent of food is lost in the food supply chain, between harvest and market, often from rejection or spoilage of edible food.

The rising food waste is contributing to the climate and biodiversity crises, accounting for close to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and displacing wildlife from intensive farming, as more than a quarter of the world’s agricultural land is given over to the production of food that is subsequently wasted.

Speaking on this, Mr Inger Andersen, the executive director of the UN Environment Programme, which wrote the report in conjunction with the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), described food waste as “a global tragedy”, and contrasted this with the fact that a third of people face food insecurity, unsure of where their future meals will come from.

“Millions will go hungry today as food is wasted across the world. Not only is this a major development issue, but the impacts of such unnecessary waste are causing substantial costs to the climate and nature,” he said.

On her part, Ms Harriet Lamb, the chief executive of WRAP, called for countries to take action.

“We need greater coordinated action across continents and supply chains,. Whether philanthropic, business or governmental, actors must rally behind programmes addressing the enormous impact wasting food has on food security, our climate and our wallets.”

The report noted that only a few countries have plans in place to reduce food waste and most fail to include it in their proposals for reducing carbon emissions.

Regardless, the UN now has reliable data from more than 100 countries, which has enabled researchers to say with certainty that food waste is a global problem, afflicting developing countries as well as the wasteful rich world.

More food appears to be thrown away in hot countries, like Nigeria, perhaps reflecting the shorter time it takes for food to spoil in higher temperatures, a lack of access to refrigeration and higher consumption of fresh food with more inedible parts.

Adedapo Adesanya

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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