SUBJECT: Respect Our Food
We love food and we need food that is a fact of life. Problematic, is the amount of food loss and waste that occurs from the production, distribution, consumption, and disposal due to the world food industry. We need nutrition to survive; but, also we all enjoy the experience of meals. Food is one of the most important activities in our culture. Conversely, however, there is the big consequential issue of food loss and waste. Studies by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2015 indicate that food loss and waste totals roughly 30 percent of all food globally. This amounts to 1.3 billion tons of food loss and waste per year worldwide. Approximately 168 million tons of food is wasted in North America annually. In Canada, 13 million tons of food is disposed of each year; approximately 396 kg of food is wasted per person per year. As a result, discarded food ends up in regional landfills. Wasted food in landfill is a significant source of methane gas – a greenhouse gas 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide (Commission for Environmental Cooperation, 2018). It can be said that food waste is much the same as our wasting of other natural resources such as energy, labor costs, and agricultural cropland which all go into the production of food. Food loss and waste unavoidably occurs in the food supply chain. The food supply chain consists of several stages: pre-harvest, post-harvest, processing, distribution, retail, food service and consumers. We must find more ways to rescue food and avoid food waste. There are food recovery stages of source reduction and rescue food before disposal.
This report focuses on the consumer stage, which occupies high percentages of food waste, retail stage which I have faced in my personal life and employment, and source reduction and food rescue stage as a food recovery.
Summary of “Characterization and management of food loss and waste in North America – White paper”
Commission for Environmental Cooperation asserts that approximately 168 million tons of food loss and waste is produced by human consumption across the ‘food supply chain’ in North America each year. These food wastes and losses are shipped to local landfills and become a significant source of methane gas - a green gas 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. The commission explains that the food supply chain consists of several stages the; pre-harvest, post-harvest, processing, distribution, retail, food service and consumers stages. Commission for Environmental Cooperation further discloses that more than 50 percent of the food loss and waste is generated at the consumer stage. For instance, 57 million tons out of 126 million tons of food is wasted by consumers in the Unites States; whereas, 6 million tons out of 13 million tons of edible food is disposed of by consumers in Canada. The commission also explains ‘food recovery hierarchy’, which includes ‘source reduction’ and ‘rescue for human consumption’ as a preferred food recovery method. Then, Commission for Environmental Cooperation cites the impact of the food recovery on green gas emission’s deduction. It suggests that possible solutions to reduce food loss and waste at each stage.
Summary of “Case studies on initiatives to reduce and recover food loss and waste”
Commission for Environmental Cooperation shows many approaches in each stage to minimize surplus food generation and prevent avoidable food loss and waste. For instance, at the food service stage, the Neighbourhood Group of companies, which operates four restaurants, investigated the sources of their food waste. They changed some menu items and made appropriate smaller portions for customers and their recipes to eliminate unnecessary waste. As a result, food waste decreased, and the profits increased. At processing, distribution and retail stages, a joint study by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, the National Consumers League and the John Hopkins Center for Livable Future addresses that 84 percent of Americans discarded perfectly edible food. They continue that the “Food Date Labeling Act” which addresses the issue of date/expiration label causes great confusion. The Act introduced in 2016 to standardize terms used for date labeling nationally. The case study concludes that the new regulation can bring more attention to food and waste issues.
Summary of “Food waste causes climate change. Here’s how we stop it.” (Youtube video)
The video pases three questions: “Why is excessive food waste happening?”, “What are its environmental consequences?”, and “How can we fix it?”. The video shows a circle chart of food waste by supply chain stage in the United States. Then, it addresses how food waste and loss is generated in each of the stages on farm and in grocery stores with actual interviews. ”Farmer Delaney Zayac explains in the documentary “Just Eat it”; that, when he leaves one chard in the market, no one will buy it. But when he displays 30 chards, 25 of chards are sold quickly. The video of “Food Waste Causes Climate Change. Here's how we stop it.” says “Pile it high and watch it fly. Sellers need to produce an excess of food to sell their goods, but that excess can at times lead to more waste.” Then, the video continues to the stages after the point of sale, which includes house hold, restaurant, and food service waste. It states that food waste caused in this stages accounts for 69 percent of the United State’s annual food waste. The video also says that these food waste come from overbuying, label confusion, cultural and psychological forces. The video concludes with specific solutions in each stage to reduce food loss and waste. For example, at the individual level, people can try to buy appropriate portions and obtain correct food life knowledge. At the retailer level, grocery stores can stop bulk promotion and donate more non-cosmetic excess foods. On a policy level, standardizing food labels with scientific background educates consumers on how to prevent discarding perfectly edible foods.
To conclude, food loss and waste have strong consequences in terms of climate change. These issues can be minimized by all our efforts at the all stages in food supply chain. Therefore, we need to clearly know the issue and take actions that each person and company can do for the respective parts. Food loss and waste issues are not food shortage issues; rather, they are often food surplus issues. When foods are produced, sold, and consumed efficiently, a farmer doesn’t need to discard their imperfect, products causing despair. Retailers don’t need to dispose of perfect products because of poor marketing. Lastly, we love food and we need food. That’s why we should appreciate all food; therefore, we all need to work together to insure that food loss and waste is kept to its absolute minimum levels both now and the future.
Commission for Environmental Cooperation. (2018). Characterization and Management of Food Loss and Waste in North America –White Paper. http://www3.cec.org/fw/food-waste-reports/
Commission for Environmental Cooperation. (2018). Noteworthy case studies on initiatives to reduce and recover food loss and waste. http://www3.cec.org/fw/food-waste-reports/
Our Changing Climate.(2020, March 27). Food Waste Causes Climate Change. Here’s how we stop it. [Video]. You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MpfEeSem_4