According to recent article in Forbes, in 2014 the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 805 million people in the world do not have enough to eat every day, while one in nine go to bed hungry each night. Reducing food waste is the key to slowing down environmental degradation and climate change as well as reducing hunger and poverty. It will also decrease the need to boost food production by 60% to meet the global population demand in 2050.
A recent article on Smithsonianmag.com highlights the problem of food waste from a different perspective. In 2010, close to 133 pounds, or a little over $160 billion worth of food, wound up in U.S. landfills alone. And when that food item is tossed, not only is the food being wasted, but also the resources that went into producing it and getting it to the consumers. In general, fruit, vegetables, and dairy account for the most consumer waste.
The article highlights the differences in the water footprint of various types of food. Animal products have a particularly high water footprint, about 1,800 gallons per pound for beef, which includes the water used to grow the animal’s feed, to maintain the farm, and drinking water for the animal. Almonds have an equivalent water footprint per pound, but less are wasted because they don’t perish as easily as animal products.
Food waste has other environmental impacts, too. “If you put all the food waste into one country, it would be the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter,” says Brian Lipinski, an associate in the World Resource Institute’s Food Program. Decomposing food that makes its way into landfills releases methane, which is significantly more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency recently called for a 50-percent reduction in food waste by 2030. Farmers, markets, food vendors, and consumers all must be doing their part, especially because according to the United Nation’s World Food Program, “there’s enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life.”