U.N. agencies are calling for an end to food loss and waste as the United Nations marks the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste Thursday.
A U.N. Environment Program report says over 930 million tons of food waste were generated in 2019. The chief of UNEP’s energy and climate branch, Mark Radka, said that represents about 20% of available food.
“There is evidence that household food waste is generated at a similar per capita level in all countries, regardless of country income level,” he said. “So, households, on average generate about 74 kilograms per person, per year in food waste.”
It has serious implications, given the U.N.’s latest estimates that 828 million people globally are going hungry. Food and Agriculture Organization findings indicate 14% of the world’s food is lost after harvest. An estimated 17% is wasted in retail and at the consumption stage.
FAO Senior Enterprise Development Officer Rosa Rolle calls food loss and waste a global problem that has significant impact on climate, food security, and the sustainability of agri-food systems.
“Over the past two years, agri-food systems across the globe have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the war in Ukraine, pushing millions of people into food insecurity, with hunger and malnutrition on the rise,” she said.
The FAO says food waste and loss accelerate climate change and harm the environment. It says about 31% of total greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to global warming, are attributable to the agri-food system.
The UNEP says reducing food loss and waste could decrease methane emissions by 15% by 2030. It notes methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. It says at least 25% of today’s global warming by methane is caused by human action.