The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has named Oct. 16th World Food Day, a campaign to heighten public awareness about hunger in the world—and eventually defeat it.
Officially, World Food Day is an opportunity to strengthen national and international solidarity in the fight to end hunger, malnutrition and poverty. With droughts, eroding soils and rising temperatures making it difficult to feed growing populations, control of arable land and water resources is moving to center stage in the global struggle for food security.
What do you have to do about it?
Oh, let’s see: consider
..what you’re eating?
..where it comes from?
..who grows it? (how and where?)
..who transports it, processes it, packages it, delivers it to your plate?
Securing future food supplies has become incredibly complex.
Water supply is now the principal constraint on efforts to expand world food production.
Future food production is also threatened by soil erosion: nearly a third of the world’s cropland is losing topsoil faster than new soil is forming, reducing the land’s inherent fertility.
Peak soil is now history.
In addition to wells going dry and soils eroding, both at an unprecedented pace, the generation of farmers now on the land is the first to face manmade climate change.
Now, suddenly, the climate is changing.
With each passing year, the agricultural system is more and more out of sync with the climate system.
While temperature, rainfall, and drought serve as indirect indicators of crop growing conditions, each week the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases a report on the actual state of the corn crop. Over the span of weeks, extreme weather events can affect food security.
An estimates 805 million people – one in 9 of the total world population were chronically undernourished in 2012-14, with insufficient food for an active and healthy life.
That number, although fallen over the last decade, is still too high, especially considering the simultaneous rise in obesity.
UN’s Millennium Development Goal’s 1c target – of halving, by 2015, the proportion of undernourished people in the developing world – is within reach, but only with sufficiently accelerated progress.
Western Africa is the only region to actually regress. Sub-Saharan Africa, with almost one in four chronically hungry, has more than a quarter of world’s undernourished people. It is making slow progress in achieving international hunger targets as the region has been afflicted by conflict and natural disasters.
China is adding over eight million people per year. As incomes go up, people tend to eat more meat. With incomes rising fast in all emerging economies, there are at least three billion people moving up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock and poultry products. China’s meat consumption per person is still only half that of the United States, leaving a huge potential for future demand growth.
But, truthfully, Sub-Saharan Africa and China are too far from our minds and our cares..
Something closer to home?
Even in developing countries, 13.5 percent of the overall population – about 1 in 8 – remain chronically undernourished. And not by choice.
FACT: In America, 165 billion dollars worth of edible, quality food per year is thrown away. That’s more than the budgets for America’s national parks, public libraries, federal prisons, veteran’s health care, the FBI, and the FDA combined.
In the UK, almost 50% (!) of the total amount of food thrown away comes from homes, amounting to 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year, more than half of which is perfectly edible.
Each group over the coming decades will need to address different issues surrounding food production, storage and transportation, as well as consumer expectations, if we are to continue to feed the people.
But, really, none of it so dramatically affects you until you come to the market and can’t find the ingredient you need. Then, it becomes personal.
But we still waste it.
When you throw away food you are not just wasting the food, but also the resources such as energy, fuel, time and water that went into growing, harvesting, storing, transporting and cooking the food.
This statistic is so staggering that it has to be repeated over and over: One-third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is annually lost or wasted along the chain that stretches from farms to processing plants, marketplaces, retailers, food-service operations, and our collective kitchens.
Not only is the current food situation deteriorating, but so is the global food system itself.
This is the new geopolitics of food scarcity: as food supplies tighten, we are moving into a new food era.
We are not looking at 2030 or 2050. We are looking at an abrupt disruption in the world food supply that could be just one poor harvest away.
Wait, what’s the difference between food loss and food waste?
Waste occurs toward the back end of the food chain, at the retail and consumer level. In general, the richer the nation, the higher its per capita rate of waste.
Loss, on the other hand, mostly occurs at the front of the food chain—during production, postharvest, and processing—and it’s far less prevalent in industrialized nations than in the developing world, which tends to lack the infrastructure to deliver all of its food, in decent shape, to consumers eager to eat it.
Yes, Africa and India, with cases of inadequate or outdated storage facilities, harsher weather and infrastructure and different population demands are facing different problems than the West, where hyper-efficient farming practices, plenty of refrigeration, and top-notch transportation, storage and logistics ensure that most of the food does make it ok to the retain level. But things rapidly go south from there.
In the developed world, calories are wasted at restaurants that serve overly large portions or fashion elaborate buffets—where diners help themselves to excessive portions and employees dump everything at closing time, even if it’s been under the sneeze guard for only five minutes.
Though they do their best to hide it from public view.
Consumers are also complicit: We overbuy because relatively cheap and seductively packaged food is available at nearly every turn. We store food improperly; we take “use by” dates literally, we forget to eat our leftovers and we succumb to impulsive and enticing dinner invites outside for convenience and social value.
But no matter where waste occurs, it represents a lost opportunity to feed people.
Food issue in the world today is not just about poverty and inequality and it is no longer synonymous with starving kids in dusty sub-Saharan Africa.
It is a tangential, everyday, development, distribution issue that concerns every one of us, all the time, meal after meal..
S o u r c e s :
NOAA National Geophysical Data Centre
Lester Brown – Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity ebook
National Geographic – Food Waste: What Can be Done
More useful info, links and resources: