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We can help solve the food waste problem

There are more than 7 billion people on this planet, of which about a billion are currently starving. Yet, we annually lose and waste 1.3 billion tons of food, enough to feed 3 billion people. In three decades, the world population will reach 9 billion. Experts said food production by then must grow 70 percent to meet the growing demand. There’s a need to seriously start reducing food waste now if we hope to eradicate hunger and starvation on this planet.

Across global food systems, food waste is a big problem, posing a challenge to food security and environmental sustainability. Currently, no accurate estimates of the extent of food loss and waste are available, but the Food and Agriculture Organization, an agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger, said roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year—approximately 1.3 billion tons—gets wasted. FAO said food losses and waste amount to roughly $680 billion in industrialized countries and $310 billion in developing countries.

That’s why FAO is pushing for consumer education for behavior change, which, it believes, is key to decreasing food losses and waste, especially in rich countries. In the United States, for example, the US Department of Agriculture estimated food waste at between 30 percent and 40 percent of the food supply. Based on calculations made by USDA’s Economic Research Service, 31 percent of food loss at the retail and consumer levels corresponded to approximately $161 billion worth of food in 2010.

Such amount of waste has far-reaching impact on society because food that could have helped feed poor families instead went to landfills. Furthermore, land, water, labor, energy and other inputs were used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing and disposing of the wasted food. In other words, wasted food also represents waste of resources, including the land, water, labor and energy used to produce it.

Fortunately, more than 70 countries recently pledged to do more to reduce the amount of food lost globally. The countries signed the pledge at an annual meeting of the Montreal Protocol where ministers, government officials and experts work on regulating man-made chemicals used in refrigeration and air-conditioning systems that are harmful to the ozone layer. The meeting took place at the FAO headquarters in Rome.

Based on FAO’s data, about one-third of the world’s food is lost or wasted and the hope is that developing better methods to keep food cold while it’s stored and transported will reduce waste. The agency said poor refrigeration leads to the loss of about 9 percent of perishable food in developed countries and about 23 percent in developing countries, where millions of people suffer from malnutrition.

In the Philippines, where being poor means looking for your food on a garbage dump, more than 13 million Filipinos can’t afford three meals a day. This is sad considering that Filipinos also waste about 308,000 tons of rice every year. In Metro Manila alone, an estimated 2,175 tons of food scraps end up in trash bins on a daily basis. Much of this wasted food comes from restaurants.

Experts said one of the top contributors to food wastage is the lack of planning on the part of consumers. Sometimes people buy lots of food without making plans on when and how the food will be prepared for consumption. Then they fail to remember using or preparing the food they buy. On the other hand, food is also wasted because people cook or prepare too much. If there’s too much food than is needed, most of the time the excess food will go to waste.

The good news is that we have the power to help end the food waste problem. Just cutting our current household food waste, for example, will go a long way in helping solve the food waste problem. The logic is simple: No food gets wasted if people take the time to plan their food consumption.

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