Wanting Not To Waste


Cecilia Chen, Dan Zook, and Dan Tuttle discuss how to reduce food waste:

The solution to feeding a growing population is not simply to produce more food, but also to save, preserve, or recycle the food already produced. Cutting current food wastage in half, for example, would yield enough food to feed one billion people—half of the additional population expected by 2050. …

Food loss, which accounts for 90 percent of unconsumed food in developing countries, refers to the decrease in edible food mass during production, postharvest processing, and distribution. The primary drivers of food loss are a lack of skills training for actors within the supply chain in handling, packaging, and storing food; insufficient on-farm storage technologies or postharvest storage facilities; and farmers’ poor market access, which leads to spoilage before products can be sold.

Food waste, on the other hand, refers to food that is fit for human consumption but is discarded by retailers or consumers. In developed countries, high aesthetic standards, stringent food company contracts, large portion sizes, and promotion-driven sales often lead to the overproduction of food, much of which is discarded. Food discarded by the consumer—the last actor in the supply chain—wastes the resources used in every previous step in the chain.

(Photo by Flickr user GloomyCorp: “A misshapen green tomato is menaced by its ripe, perfectly-proportioned brethren.”)