FAO International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste: a warning to awaken our consciences

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For the first time ever in its history, FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) has set up an international day dedicated to the awareness of food loss and waste.

It is celebrated all over the world on September 29 and aims to raise awareness among the global population on the impact that tons of food that doesn’t reach our tables generate every day at an economic, social, and environmental level.

When it comes to wasted food, a distinction is made between food losses and food waste. Food loss occurs along the food supply chain, from product collection to placing on the market, while food waste occurs in the retail and individual consumption stages.

FAO estimates that, globally, nearly 14% of the food produced is lost between the collection and retail stages. Together with the food, vital resources like water, energy, and time used to produce it are also lost.

Food waste in landfills increases greenhouse gas emissions, negatively affecting climate conditions. FAO estimates that 38% of total energy consumption in the global food system is used to produce food that is lost or wasted.

This global call to action, which invites us to optimize the use of the food produced and to introduce innovative solutions that protect its processing and dissemination methods, comes at a historic moment in which, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are all called to rethink our relationship with what we eat, in the interest of people and the planet, as the slogan was chosen by FAO for the occasion states.

To ensure sustainable models of food production and consumption (the 12th Sustainable Development Goal promoted by the UN), FAO has created the Food Loss Index (FLI), an indicator of the percentages of food removed from supply chains which, since 2015, track changes and progress in reducing food loss.

Economically, for example, food losses in sub-Saharan Africa, where most smallholder farmers live on less than two dollars a day, amount to four billion dollars a year.

Where and why food waste occurs?
(* according to the latest FAO report on the state of food and agriculture 2019)

At the farm: important causes of on-farm losses include inadequate harvesting time, climatic conditions, practices applied at harvest and handling, and challenges in marketing produce.

In storage: significant losses are caused by inadequate storage, as well as decisions made at earlier stages of the supply chain that cause products to have a shorter shelf life.

In transit: good infrastructure and efficient trade logistics are key to preventing food loss. Processing and packaging play a role in preserving foods, and losses are often caused by inadequate facilities, technical malfunction, or human error.

In the shop: the causes of food waste at the retail level are linked to limited shelf life, the need for food products to meet aesthetic standards in terms of color, shape, and size, and variability in demand.
In the home: consumer waste is often caused by poor purchase and meal planning, excess buying (influenced by over-large portioning and package sizes), confusion over labels (best before and use by), and poor in-home storing.

How can we help reduce food waste?

Slow Food has always recognized the key role that food plays in our daily lives, in economic, ecological, social, and political terms on the one hand, and of indispensable value for human health, well-being, and prosperity on the other. For this reason, Slow Food considers food waste to be unacceptable, and the fight to combat it is a fundamental aspect of her work.

This year, on the occasion of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, Slow Food joins the call launched by FAO with specific events organized around the world by its international network: in particular, we point out the great Disco Soup organized by Slow Food Japan on September 26, which saw moments of sharing in the presence and a large online event to discuss food sustainability, and the #nofoodloss campaign, which the Slow Food Youth Network promoted in Azerbaijan within the COVCHEG project and will raise awareness on food waste for all those who want to join the dedicated social channels during 29 September.

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