Food Supply,  Food Waste,  Global Threats

Reducing Food Loss and Waste – A New Working Paper

By The Editors

As we have seen in the previous post, this year the theme of World Environment Day (June 5) is ‘Think.Eat.Save’.  The theme connects to the “Think.Eat.Save – Reduce Your Foodprint’ campaign. Accordingly, a new working paper has been released yesterday (June 5).  The title of this working paper is ‘Reducing Food Loss and Waste”.  It was produced by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and draws on research from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The “Think.Eat.Save – Reduce Your Foodprint’ campaign harnesses the expertise of organizations such as FAO, WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), Feeding the 5,000 and other partners, including national governments, who have considerable experience targeting and changing wasteful practices. It aims to accelerate action and provide a global vision and information-sharing portal for the many initiatives currently underway around the world that aim to reduce food waste and food loss.

According to the Reducing Food Loss and Waste paper, one out of every four calories produced by the global agricultural system is being lost or wasted.  The global pattern of food loss and waste needs to be reversed, as it is estimated that our planet will need about 60 percent more food calories in 2050 compared to 2006 because of the rapidly-expanding global population.

Food loss refers to food that is spilled or spoiled after harvest and during transit, storage and packaging, whereas wasted food is food that is fit for human consumption but is thrown away before it can be eaten. More than half of lost and wasted food in Europe, the United States,Canada and Australia occurs close to the fork, at the consumption stage.  However, in developing countries, about two thirds occurs close to the farm, after harvest and storage.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “It is an extraordinary fact that in the 21st century, close to 25 per cent of all the calories linked with growing and producing food are lost or wasted between the farm and the fork-food that could feed the hungry, food that has required energy, water and soils in a world of increasing natural resource scarcities and environmental concerns including climate change.”

It is important to think of the natural resources that are used to produce food that is lost and wasted.  For example, the working paper tells us that water used to produce lost or wasted food around the world each year could fill 70 million Olympic-sized swimming pools, while the amount of cropland used to produce wasted food is equivalent to the size of Mexico. Some 28 million tons of fertilizer are used annually to grow this lost and wasted food. The inefficient use of fertilizers is linked to the growth of ‘dead’ coastal zones around the globe and to climate change.

Therefore, food loss and waste has a major global environmental impact and should be considered a problem in need of urgent solutions.



  • Nisha Hudda

    It is very nice to read that there are ongoing programs to feed the hungry and save the environment. There are 1 in 6 Americans that suffer from hunger, which is surprisingly high for such a powerful and abundant country. It is shocking to read that 25% of calories are still being wasted. It is sad that in developing countries such as India the food gets wasted during the harvest and storage stage, thus it does not even reach to the consumption stage for the general public. The usage of fertilizer, has created many problems for the environment and to know that fertilizers are one of the main concerns in the damaged food, should be enough proof for our society to find a substitution to fertilizer, or stop using fertilizer in whole. This is quite a disappointment to know how much water and food is being destroyed and how many individuals suffer from hunger. I will try to get myself in an organization to help fight hunger for the less fortunate and also follow the results of this campaign.

  • ErinnGoBragh

    I think one way to reduce the amount of food waste is to teach people appropriate portion sizes when preparing and serving food. A lot of people, including myself, have eyes that are bigger than their stomach. People need to learn, especially in this country, to take only what they need. I believe it will certainly reduce the amount of food waste.
    I’m sure the restaurant industry plays a huge role in food waste. Campaigns like this should focus on stopping wasteful practices of restaurants.

    • FurElise

      I agree with your statement of only cooking or preparing what you need for your meal. I know I often make a lot of food and then have quite a bit left over because I was not as hungry as I thought. On top of teaching people appropriate portion sizes, smarter food shopping should also be something we all know how to do. People often buy a lot of food that they will not eat or too much of something they will eat. If these steps are followed, food waste can be dramatically reduced.

  • awilliams199

    I do agree with the importance of preventing both food lost and waste. In the the U.S. it is estimated that households, retailers, and food services produce approximately 40 million tons of food waste annually ( With these statistics there is an indications the problem of world hunger could be solved if more people found ways to prevent food waste. Although these organizations make a valid point about the urgency of preventing both food loss and waste, focussing more on preventing food waste rather than loss could be more effective. Food loss refers to food that is spilled or spoiled after harvest in contrast and wasted food is food that can be consumed but is thrown away before it can be eaten. Because food loss is hard to control due to natural factors such as natural weather, poor storage facilities etc. focusing on food waste would be more effective.

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