Thursday, 10 January 2013

Food Waste

Did you know that an estimated 30 - 50% of all the food produced on planet Earth is lost before reaching a human stomach? There are 2 ways to waste food. One is to eat more than needed. The other is not to make good use of what has been grown for food.

I often eat more than I need. I'm now starting an effort to put that right. This means food is rather more on my mind than I'd like it to be just now and I certainly didn't intend to blog about it. 

Then I heard a statistic that shocked me. It was that 30 - 50% of the world's food produced for human consumption is never eaten.


Put that alongside the fact that millions in the world can't get enough to eat and it looks like a crime against humanity. It is sinful and one way or another we are all caught up in the systems that perpetuate this.

I don't usually read reports from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, but this morning I read Dr Tim Fox's report Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not. It's not long, take a look if you're interested in food, people or the welfare of the planet. It's not technical. You don't need to be a mechanical engineer to understand it. Here's a taster from page 2, the executive summary:

"Today, we produce about four billion metric tonnes
of food per annum. Yet due to poor practices in
harvesting, storage and transportation, as well
as market and consumer wastage, it is estimated
that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 billion tonnes) of all food
produced never reaches a human stomach.
Furthermore, this figure does not reflect the fact
that large amounts of land, energy, fertilisers
and water have also been lost in the production
of foodstuffs which simply end up as waste.
This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot
continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of
sustainably meeting our future food demands." 
And here, from page 28, are the Institution of Mechanical Engineers recommendations to address the problem:
 "In order to help prevent a future global
food crisis, the Institution of Mechanical
Engineers recommends:
 
1. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation
(FAO) works with the international engineering
community to ensure governments of developed
nations put in place programmes that transfer
engineering knowledge, design know-how,
and suitable technology to newly developing
countries. This will help improve produce
handling in the harvest, and immediate post harvest stages of food production.
 
2. Governments of rapidly developing countries
incorporate waste minimisation thinking
into the transport infrastructure and storage
facilities currently being planned, engineered
and built.
 
3. Governments in developed nations devise
and implement policy that changes consumer
expectations. These should discourage
retailers from wasteful practices that lead to
the rejection of food on the basis of cosmetic
characteristics, and losses in the home due to
excessive purchasing by consumers."
I don't think this is an issue Christians can duck. We believe that what God wants for humanity involves loving mercy, doing justice, walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8) and feeding the hungry (Matthew 25: 31-46) and loving God and neighbour (Mark 12: 28-31). The trouble is we don't always act like that.  

I'm as guilty as anyone of hoping other people and institutions will do something about the food waste issue - like engineers, agriculturalists, supermarkets, governments. Am I underestimating my or your power as a consumer or voter?

Suggestions for small realistic and practical steps that you or I could take? Anyone?




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