We recently came across a TED talk video by Tristram Stuart about food waste. This is a great video. Please check it out if you haven’t yet.
According to Stuart’s websites, 20 million tons of food is wasted in the UK alone while there are four million people suffering from food poverty in the country. (The number of people suffering from food poverty in EU is 43 million and in the U.S., it is 35 million.)
Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) reports a “food loss” of five to nine million tons each year. “Food loss” is defined as food that could still be safely consumed by people but is destroyed. http://www.maff.go.jp/j/shokusan/recycle/syoku_loss/pdf/syoku_loss_h21.pdf
This is a great resource about what is being done to deal with food waste in the US. They show how food banks and food rescue programs deal with waste.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports, “In 2010, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated, more than any other material category but paper.” http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/organics/food/fd-basic.htm
And this site says, “Today (in the US), only 2 percent of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled; by contrast, 62 percent of paper is recycled.” This means there are still a lot of opportunities for food banks to recover food out there.
Another thing worth mentioning is that in industrialized countries a lot of food waste occurs at the household and retail level. While in low-income countries, food waste among consumers is minimal, but major food waste occurs at post harvest, storage, transportation, and processing phase.
India is one example of a country that produces enough to feed its own, yet millions go hungry every night. The BBC explains that about one-third of all food there goes to waste (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-18482389 ). But even more heart breaking is the knowledge that even though the country has reached this level of self-reliance, the food does not get to those most in need. The New York Times has a very insightful article describing why this is so. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/business/global/a-failed-food-system-in-india-prompts-an-intense-review.html?pagewanted=all&_moc.semityn.www
In developing countries, reasons like premature harvesting, lack of proper facilities for storing food, and lack of proper means for transporting food, are major reasons of food waste. (FAO: http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/mb060e/mb060e00.pdf)
Another reality is food destroyed for cosmetic reasons. In Japan we call this the three “Ps.” If the produce is not “perfect,” “pristine,” or “presentable” it will not be purchased.
This adds up to a large amount in industrialized countries.
In industrialized countries food banks can recover this surplus food that occurs at the manufacturing, distribution, and retail levels. Food banks can efficiently recover and redistribute this. There have been efforts to increase the amount of fresh produce donations from farms:
· Farm to Family http://www.cafoodbanks.org/Farm_to_Family_How_It_Works.html
· Gleaning program http://endhunger.org/gleaning_network.htm
We are working in the Philippines to kick off such a fresh produce program. A vegetable exporter to Japan has about 200 tons each season that he must destroy. He had looked for many different alternatives to deal with this surplus before we found him. We are now working a project of brining this from outside of Manila to Manila for redistribution. It is a small project but hopefully it will be the seed for many other initiatives.
We move on. We exert our creativity, and we will develop food banking in Asia.