Half the world’s foods ‘wasted’ yet 870 million people go to bed hungry


January 10th, 2013

Half the world’s food goes to waste – so says a report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

Yet masses of people in the UK and around the world are hungry. In the UK more than 200,000 people will use food banks this year. In the developing world 870 million people don’t have enough to eat and go to bed hungry.

What’s going wrong?

Some blame must fall on us as consumers – being seduced by BOGOF offers, or the lure of the ‘reduced about to reach sell by date’ products – we’re just buying too much of things we don’t then eat. It’s also about supermarkets – turning down wonky carrots so they are left in the field to rot – 30% of vegetables in the UK are not harvested because of their physical appearance. It’s also about overlong supply chains, sell buy dates that don’t mean anything – on malt vinegar for example.

The biggest difference between the developed and developing world is that here – in the UK – we have a choice we choose through our buying behavious and the supermarkets – interpreting our demands – to allow huge amounts of food to go to waste. We can dramatically reduce the £12 billion worth of food wasted in the UK – thats £480 per family.  In the developing world poor people dont have a choice.

In the developing world food is wasted as after harvest it can’t be stored and rots – people have no fridges and no way of storing or preserving they often also have no way of getting products to market and even if they do because they are selling in a glut no one  wants to buy.

The issue is not just waste – the injustice – the technology injustice is that there is so much we can do to solve this problem and the technologies people need exist.
Practical Action works with small scale farmers in the developing world to grow more food and preserve the food that’s grown – from pumpkin storage in Bangladesh to drying and pickling vegetables in Sudan. Thousands of clever, practical, simple solutions that work.

In the UK there’s loads to go at – simpler supply chains, accepting sometimes supermarket shelves will be empty, not buying foo d that we all throw away.

So my practical solution for all of us today – buy less food, grow some yourself (it’s great- you could even learn to make jams!), and if you save money and you can afford to give it to a charity you support help people struggling across the world or in the time of austerity Britain in the UK.

People struggle to grow food – I’ve met women in Sudan who have walked many miles to find water for their family and their crops – if you are doing that imagine the heartbreak when your family goes hungry and your food rots.

End food waste and end hunger – wouldn’t it be great If we could do both.

Support Practical Action – this report made me once again think its a great thing to do!

One response to “Half the world’s foods ‘wasted’ yet 870 million people go to bed hungry”

  1. Jane Says:

    Great post! You bring up a good point about the consumers being consumed by the BOGO offers supermarkets seduce you with, people need to become more sustainable.

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