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United Nations Kicks Off New Campaign To Cut Back On The Amount Of Food Wasted Around The World
January 22, 2013
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This season, we've done several posts about how much food goes to waste in Canada and around the world.

Well today, the United Nations kicked off a new global campaign to try to cut back on the amount that is lost or thrown away.

Think about this. Of all the food that's produced around the world, about one-third of it ends up being wasted every year.

That's about $1 trillion worth or 1.3 billion tones, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization.

A recent report from the UK's Institute of Mechanical Engineers put the number ever higher, saying as much as half of the world's food goes to waste.

With all of that in mind, the UN has launched the 'Think, Eat, Save: Reduce Your Foodprint' campaign.

The idea is to encourage people to take small, simple steps so that collectively, we can dramatically cut the amount of food we waste.

That means everyone including families, supermarkets, hotels, schools, sports and social clubs, company CEOs, city Mayors, national and world leaders.

Achim Steiner is the UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director.

"In a world of 7 billion people, set to grow to 9 billion by 2050, wasting food makes no sense - economically, environmentally and ethically," he said.

So, what can you do? Well, here's a few ideas from the campaign website thinkeatsave.org.

Shop Wisely: Plan meals, use shopping lists, avoid impulse buys and don't succumb to marketing tricks that lead you to buy more food than you need.

Buy Funny Fruit: Many fruits and vegetables because they don't look "right" or "pretty", even though it's perfectly good fruit.

Understand Expiry and Best-Before Dates: Most foods are safe to eat long after these dates. The important date is "use by" - eat food by that date or check if you can freeze it.

Use What You Have In Your Fridge: Try to eat or cook anything that might go bad soon.

Eat Leftovers - whether you cooked it, took it home from a restaurant or ordered takeout; if you don't want it, try freezing it.

Compost Food - a lot of food can go into a compost bin, where it breaks down naturally; your local recycling guide can tell you what can go in and what can't.

Donate Food - If you have perfectly good food you aren't going to eat, bring it to a food bank, soup kitchen, or shelter.

"Together, we can reverse this unacceptable trend and improve lives," said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.

"In industrialized regions, almost half of the total food squandered... occurs because producers, retailers and consumers discard food that is still fit for consumption," he said.

"This is more than the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa, and would be sufficient to feed the estimated 870 million people hungry in the world."

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People in North America and Europe waste a disproportionate amount of food - between 95 and 115 kg per capita every year.

In sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, it's only about 6 to 11 kg a year.

The big problem in developing countries is early on - when food is being farmed, harvested, processed and distributed.

In some cases, farmers and producers don't have enough money or training. Or they don't have the right storage, cooling, or packaging facilities.

"If we can help food producers to reduce losses through better harvesting, processing, storage, transport and marketing methods, and combine this with profound and lasting changes in the way people consume food, then we can have a healthier and hunger-free world," Graziano da Silva said.

In the developed world, the problem is at the end of the food chain.

A lot of food gets thrown out because it's past the Best Before date, when that simply means "peak" quality.

The report says the food industry puts too much emphasis on appearance. Marketing campaigns encourage impulse buys or over-buying. And restaurants serve meals that are too large.

Here are a few of the campaign's tips for retailers.

Retailers and grocery stores: carry out waste audits, work with their suppliers to reduce waste, offer discounts for food that's almost expired, and standardize labels.

Restaurants, pubs and hotels: limit menu choices, introduce flexible portions, and carry out waste audits.

Supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, companies, cities and countries: use the website to pledge to measure the food they waste and put in place targets to reduce it.

And as Achim Steiner points out, all of this waste goes beyond just food.

There are also "the cost implications, all the land, water, fertilizers and labour needed to grow that food is wasted - not to mention the generation of greenhouse gas emissions produced by food decomposing on landfill and the transport of food that is ultimately thrown away," he said.

"To bring about the vision of a truly sustainable world, we need a transformation in the way we produce and consume our natural resources."

Several seasons ago, we had Michael Pollan in the red chair. Pollan wrote the best selling books 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' and 'In Defence Of Food'.

It was a thought provoking conversation about food and what we should be eating.

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