UN World Food Program Report: The Food Waste Produced By the World’s Richest Countries Could End Global Hunger, Twice

The food waste produced by the world’s richest nations, some $750 billion worth annually, could end world hunger — twice over — according to the United Nations World Food Programme. More than 800 million people were considered food insecure in 2017.

David Beasley, head of the Programme, released the info earlier this week on World Food Day. According to the organization, one-third of the world’s food goes uneaten every year, amounting to more than 1.3 billion tonnes of food valued at more than $1 trillion. That trend could see food waste rise to more than 2.1 billion tonnes annually by 2030.

The report noted that as much as half of all fruits and vegetables go uneaten every year. But it’s the consumption habits — or waste habits, rather — in rich countries most concerning. More than 220 million tonnes are wasted in the top economic countries — nearly as much as is produced in all of sub-Saharan Africa per year.

The UN noted that as much as 40 percent of all food waste losses occur in processing or other post-harvest practices in developing nations, but in rich countries, 40 percent is lost once at retail or post-purchase by consumers.

The report notes that Europe produces nearly 90 million tonnes of food waste per year; in the UK, it’s 15 billion pounds per year “including the equivalent of 3 million glasses of milk.”

U.S. consumers are tossing nearly one pound of food per person per day — about the same as four servings of chicken or one pint of blueberries.

Food waste doesn’t just impact our global hunger crises; it’s also a detriment to the environment. Food production requires water and land and it also releases methane when left uneaten. Methane, a greenhouse gas more damaging than CO2, is also a major byproduct of livestock production.

Rich nations waste $750 billion of food each year, double the amount needed to end global hunger, David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Programme, said on Tuesday.

On World Food Day, here are some facts about how much food is wasted globally:

  • About a third of the world’s food is lost or thrown away each year, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes, worth nearly $1 trillion, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • If current trends continue, food waste will rise to 2.1 billion tonnes annually by 2030. – Almost half of all fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers produced are wasted, the U.N. said.
  • Some 821 million people around the world were hungry in 2017.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food – 222 million tonnes – as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa – 230 million tonnes.
  • In developing countries, 40 percent of losses occur post-harvest or during processing, while in industrialised countries more than 40 percent of losses happen at retail and consumer levels.
  • Food waste squanders land and water used to produce it, and also releases methane, a greenhouse gas, when left to rot.
  • U.S. consumers waste nearly 1 lb (454 grams) of food per person each day – the equivalent of four portions of chicken or a pint of blueberries.
  • In Europe, 88 million tonnes of food are wasted annually at a cost of 143 billion euros ($177 billion).
  • In Britain, 15 billion pounds ($19.7 billion) worth of edible food is binned every year, including the equivalent of 3 million glasses of milk

(SOURCES: U.N. FAO; European Parliament; University of Vermont; Wrap; Boston Consulting Group)

($1 = 0.7602 pounds)


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