FAO in North America

North American Perspectives on Food Loss and Waste Reduction


28 September 2020, Washington DC/Montreal QC – To mark the inaugural International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, FAO North America and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) organized a webinar on 28 September. The session provided a platform for stakeholders in Canada, Mexico and the United States to present and discuss critical food loss and waste reduction policies and projects at the national and regional levels.

“It is high time that the world woke up to the benefits which can accrue at such a small cost if we take to food loss and waste reduction seriously. We need to move to action, based on a clear understanding of science and context-specific interventions,” said Vimlendra Sharan, Director of FAO North America, in his welcoming remarks.

Richard Morgan, Executive Director of CEC, underlined the triple win of addressing food loss and waste. “It reduces environmental degradation, leads to economic gains, and improved quality of life for communities,” said Morgan. “Our best messengers on reducing food loss and waste are younger audiences,” he added.

Measuring progress on Food Loss and Waste

“We need to have a good baseline over which to track performance and see how we can progress,” said Maximo Torero, FAO’s Chief Economist in his keynote address outlining the progress that FAO has made since establishing the Food Loss Index (SDG 12.3.1). Initial estimates for the Food Loss Index made by FAO in the State of Food and Agriculture 2019 report tell us that around 14 percent of the world’s food is lost from post-harvest up until the retail level. “There are environmental, social and economic wins by reducing food loss and waste, and we need to move fast. What is happening today in terms of food loss and waste is unacceptable, unethical and we need to change it,” he added.

“Each year, the food we waste costs the North American economy US$ 278 billion and could have fed 260 million people,” said Armando Yáñez Sandoval, Head of the Green Growth Unit at the CEC. “Our CEC Food Matters Action Kit aims to inspire youth across North America to reduce food waste and help save our planet.”

Multisector efforts underway in Canada, the US and Mexico

Michael Vanderpol, Senior Program Coordinator at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), shared food loss and waste reduction policies at the federal, provincial and municipal level in Canada.

“In 2019, the Food Policy for Canada is a roadmap to build a more sustainable food system. Reducing food waste is one of four key action areas. The Food Waste Reduction Challenge funds innovative reduction proposals across the supply chain.” He added that “governments, businesses and non-governmental organizations across Canada are working to address food loss and waste. It's about moving towards a circular economy, being more efficient with the way that we manage food,” he concluded.

Maxwell Torney, International Environmental Program Specialist at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emphasized that “anyone can choose to take small steps in their everyday lives to help us achieve the goal of reducing food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030. Businesses and organizations may be interested in joining the Food Recovery Challenge or the United States Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, and we also encourage you to access the CEC Food Matters Action Kit,” said Torney.

Claudia Sanchez, Deputy Director of Soils at the Mexican Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources SEMARNAT, shared that Mexico participates in several North American food loss and waste reduction and recovery initiatives. “There are also local initiatives with private sector actors and municipal governments, such as a Zero Food Waste Certification program for food service establishments in Mexico City,” she added.

“The city of Merida, Yucatan has initiated a Certification on Environmental Responsibility program which awards restaurants for their degree of environmental sustainability and actions to promote food safety, reduce food loss and waste and thus contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” added Itzel Gonzalez, Department Head at SEMARNAT.

Small changes can add up to have big impact

Gustavo Pérez Berlanga, Senior Vice President of Sustainability and Social Responsibility at the Gigante Restaurant Group, one of the biggest restaurant chains in Mexico, highlighted operational changes in their restaurant chains that have achieved significant food recovery and waste reduction. For example, asking people at breakfast whether or not they want bread and marmalade instead of just providing it has helped to significantly reduce food waste. “Food loss and waste is a matter which concerns all of humanity. We need to prove to ourselves that we can do better,” he added.

Brian Lipinski, Associate at the World Resources Institute, underscored that companies have started to address food loss and waste, which is leading to immense economic gains, while also making a significant impact in reducing environmental degradation. He highlighted the 10 by 20 by 30 initiative, in which the world’s largest food retailers are engaging their supply chains in the fight against food loss and waste. “There's not going to be any one person or one action that's going to solve this issue, it's going to be something where we need lots of smaller action, adding up to something big,” said Lipinski.

Justice Walz, Creative Director, introduced “Bruized” a female-led company devoted to reducing food loss and waste, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and getting people interested in food systems. “So far, Bruized has reduced over 2000 lbs of food loss and waste by upcycling imperfect produce,” said Walz.  “We want to encourage everyone to embrace imperfect in your everyday lives. And that goes beyond imperfect produce, but also our own imperfections. We need everyone making small changes, not a few people doing things perfectly.”

There is no room for food loss and waste in this time of crisis

Lina Pohl Alfaro, FAO Representative to Mexico, concluded that while food loss and waste has received increased attention over the last decade in policy dialogues and among the public, further action is necessary. “There is no room for food loss and waste in this time of crisis, and we must take this opportunity to build back better and reduce excessive levels of food loss and waste in our food system,” she added.

Preserving access to safe and nutritious food is and will continue to be an essential part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and reducing food loss and waste plays a key role. Stopping food loss and waste along the food value chain and at the consumer level is a powerful means to strengthening the long-term sustainability of food systems’ environmental, social and economic dimensions. Through multi-stakeholder initiatives, efforts to reduce food loss and waste are increasing across North America. 


Further information

Watch the recording of the event here: http://bit.ly/IDAFLW28Sept   


Bios: You can read the speaker bios http://bit.ly/BiosIDAFLW

Further information