Each household in the West wastes an average of two full-bins of food each year

The discussion about the future of our food is going on. Since it is almost sure, that we need to feed 9 billion people in 2050, experts are searching for a solution to make sure there is enough food for all of us. Food in the Streets wonders whether it is really so hard to solve this problem?

I will start with some facts. At this moment there are about 7 billion people in the world to feed. One out of eight is chronically undernourished, all of them living in developing countries. At the same time we produce an average of 2720 calories a day per person while we only need 2000 calories (woman) to 2500 calories (men) to survive. Part of this surplus is eaten by people who are too heavy or even obese. Another part is thrown away by consumers without eating it.

The so-called food waste is an expensive and very inefficient act. We in Europe and North America throw away almost as much food (222 million tons) as is produced in sub-Saharan Africa. But where does it get lost?

Food waste is what we consumers do. ‘We’ as in people in developed countries. It is done in the supermarkets and restaurants but mainly in our own households. We buy more than we eventually eat and – although all of us have a fridge and most of us a freezer – we cannot handle leftovers other than throw them away.

Food loss is a problem in developing countries. Underdeveloped infrastructural systems make it difficult to get food in the right way (read: protected from transport influences) to the right place (distribution centres, cooling, etc.). These losses mean less income for the farmers and higher or unaffordable prices for the consumers in these poor countries.  Thereby not only losing the food, but also wasting the input like water and fertilizers, labour and capital.

It seems that experts get a grip on where it goes wrong. Still the exact size of the problem is not clear what the exact size of the problem is. As a newspaper concludes in its article on the data deficiency in food waste, look for source-oriented measures instead of working at the end of the line. We can off-course continue on the relatively easy road in which we push the pedal a bit deeper, increase the input of energy, pesticides and fertilizers and hope to be able to continue this way for some more time. However, research has shown that there is a big probability that this will not be a long-term solution. 

Then there is the smaller scale or local interventions which are needed in each part of the food value chain; harvest and productions, handling and storage, processing and packaging, distribution and marketing and finally consumption.

Well, I am not convinced yet. It is true that data are difficult to find and are incomparable. A British supermarket recently decided to reveal how much food goes too waste. It was about 30.000 tons and that is only one part of the large food chain they work in. It a good start. This article (left top of page 2) promises that we really do need to increase the number of food we produce, even if we manage to diminish the loss and waste of food by 50%. And if we can arrange to do that, we will be able to start thinking about the rest of the solution. There is still a long way to go!