Consumers... Please stop being picky!

The variety of food on the supermarket shelves make today’s world “chooser-friendly”. When I want to buy tomatoes, for example, I’m always looking for the perfect ones (shiny, round, dark red, with the green leaves on top). As consumers, we have a right to choose what to eat or buy and where to buy. We even have a right to judge by appearance. But how does our preference and “pickiness” affect producers and food systems? Do we need to be concerned about our behaviour?

Food loss and waste

Food loss is defined as a decrease in quantity or quality of food that is produced for human consumption. It is the food that does not reach the market from producers. It mostly occurs in the production stage of the supply chain. Farmers’ low productivity, lack of storage, transportation and other limitations related to market systems, affect the food loss in the world. 

Food waste on the other hand, is an intentional discharge of items that are consumable and is caused mainly by consumer negligence and behaviour. Despite the quality, food is being wasted based on individual’s preferences and choices.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the annual global value of food loss and waste is US$ 1 trillion.

“We should reduce the food loss and waste! And we should do it now!” was the opening remark at the Side Event on “Reducing food losses and waste while connecting smallholders to market” during this week’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

Those attending the session were in no doubt as to how food loss and waste was affecting small farmers’ well-being.  “There is nothing more difficult to see a farmer losing their crops due to lack of access to market and opportunities to sell them,” Anna Lartey, Director of the Nutrition and Food Systems Division (FAO), said.

“In order to reduce the amount of food waste, we have to be less choosy,” said Judith Hitchmann, a president of Urgenci (an International Network of Community Supported Agriculture). Urgenci aims to maintain and develop small-scale organic family farming  and to achieve local food sovereigntyCommunity Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a market system where farmers and consumers share risks of food loss and farmers’ income loss.

Products of CSA are organic, having very low impact on environment, are not packaged and create very little waste. “When compared to the supermarkets, CSA production creates almost 50% less food loss and waste,” Ms. Hitchmann said.  She said she loves the fact that CSA members take or buy anything that farmers’ offer. Consumers do not care about the perfect shape, or slightly different color of the item. 

Local farmers, consumers and civil society organizations in the CSA model are closely connected and learn various ways of preparing and preserving food. Instead of wasting and putting the slightly rotten food to trash bin,  “everyone should learn how to preserve food!” Ms. Hitchmann said at the end of her presentation.

Listening to her enthusiastic speech, I felt guilty about my tendency to choose food based on its looks. All consumers should understand their role in the supply chain. The collective effort of small farmers and consumers at local, national and international levels is an important first step in tackling the complex issues of food loss and waste.

So, few slightly spoiled vegetables from local farmers are definitely on the next grocery list.

Blogpost by Anudari Enkhtur, #CFS43 Social Reporter – e.anudari(at)yahoo.com

Photo Credit: Matt Preston on Flickr

This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

19/10/2016 12:20

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