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Food waste reports: Many Americans in denial; how it could curb hunger and create jobs

There still exists, it would seem, some disconnect about how food waste impacts hunger and -- more importantly -- the responsibility of local officials to address either one. Would that change if we were to add job creation into the mix? Two pieces of research offer food for thought. – Liz Enbysk


After surveying Americans about the estimated two billion tons of food that is produced on the planet but never consumed, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation suggested many of them are "shockingly unaware" how much they themselves contribute to the problem.

The IFIC found that 30% of respondents said they don't create any food waste.

“It’s highly unlikely that one-third of Americans play no role whatsoever in food waste,” said IFIC Foundation CEO Joseph Clayton.

The good news is that the majority of Americans say they’re taking steps to reduce food waste.

Also important: 85% of respondents do believe it's important to make sure everyone has access to healthy foods.

But how do we make that happen? Smart farm technologies and new food waste technologies can make a dent. So will educating people about choices they make every day.

“In developing countries, we can improve the farm-to-market process by encouraging upgrades to the storage and transportation of food, Clayton said. "In developed countries, consumers are often confused by the various product date labels such as ‘sell by,’ ‘use by,’ ‘best before,’ ‘expires on,’ and others, so they throw out food that is still safe to eat. This presents an opportunity to help people understand what these labels means."

Food waste and jobs
Like the IFIC, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission released research coinciding with World Food Day on Oct. 16. Its report -- Valuing the SDG Prize in Food & Agriculture -- focuses on how new business models and investments could unlock $2.3 trillion a year in the food and agriculture sectors and generate 80 million jobs by 2030.

"As the world’s population is expected to increase by another one billion by 2030, the global food and agriculture system requires a new way of doing business, and new approaches to feed more than 800 million people who today suffer from chronic hunger as well as to meet future demand," said Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, Chair of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. "This report makes clear both the social and economic incentives for companies to seize upon the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as compelling growth opportunities. It is part of our larger argument for why the private sector must accelerate new business models that open truly sustainable and inclusive markets."

14 opportunities
The opportunities are broken down across 14 areas, including:

  • Food waste
  • Farming technology
  • Low-income food markets
  • Micro-irrigation
  • Restoring land and forests
  • Product reformulation
  • Changing diets
  • Aquaculture
  • Reducing package waste
  • Cattle intensification
  • Urban agriculture

Researchers estimated a range of value for each opportunity; the lowest in the range is $15 billion per year for cattle intensification while the highest goes up to $405 billion per year for reducing food waste across the production process, or value chain.

Developing nations have the most to gain, they say.

But the researchers caution that the annual investments needed to open these market opportunities must be scaled significantly, requiring an estimated $320 billion a year to unlock them by 2030.

They believe if the private sector can do this, the social benefits -- including food security, job creation and health outcomes -- could be significant. For example, improving technology in smallholder farms and restoring degraded land could double the incomes of smallholder farmers in the world, who are among the poorest in the global economy.

Read more on this topic:
Why more mayors are putting food on the agenda
The moral tragedy that cities can fix (and how technology can help)

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