SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction

Food waste event at UNEP Governing Council

Enjoy the food instead of throwing it away

Environment Ministers, representatives from Messe Düsseldorf, FAO and hundreds of dignitaries enjoy food that was destined for the dumpster.

When the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) recently held its traditional Governing Council reception and dinner, they added a twist: All vegetables used in the dinner had already been rejected by exporters for cosmetic reasons – a leading global cause of food waste.

"The solution to the problem really is quite simple", said Tristram Stuart, founder of Feeding the 5000, a UK-based NGO fighting food waste.

"What everyone has done here today is eating the message. You do not really need any speeches on the stadium to make the point. When people eat the food, they taste that it is delicious, and then they say why would this be wasted?"

The event sought to highlight that so much perfectly good food ends up elsewhere.

"Can you imagine that one third of everything we produce on this planet is actually lost between the farm and the shop, or simply the family that should have consumed that food?", asked UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner at the event.

"We need to reflect on how this is possible, in a world with all the modern technologies and markets", he said.

UNEP is already preparing for the World Environment Day on June 5th, which will be hosted by Mongolia. The theme of this years’ event is Think.Eat.Save. – Reduce Your Foodprint.

"Food gets lost in different ways", says Modibo Traore, FAO’s sub-regional coordinator for Eastern Africa. "In developing countries most of the losses occur at the production level, because of lack of infrastructure and appropriate equipment. In the developed world, food gets wasted at consumer and distribution level", he explained.

End-user food waste was the example for the evening. Advertising and custom have led to an impression that any vegetable must have a standardized, glossy look. When they differ, they are either not sold to the supermarket, or the consumer simply does not select it when he or she goes shopping. Nearly half of the food waste is accounted for by the absurd focus on appearance of vegetables that will ultimately be chopped, fried or boiled.

Diners hungry for more information could visit the SAVE FOOD exhibition on the UNEP grounds throughout the week. The interactive display was created by SAVE FOOD partner Messe Dusseldorf, and illustrates the scale of food loss throughout the food value chain. It is based on the 2011 FAO study on Global food losses and food waste. The exhibit also shows what can be done at different levels to reduce food loss and waste.

"If what we need to do is to reduce our environmental impact, and increase food supply in parts of the world where food is not enough", said Stuart of Feed the 5000 towards the end of the event.

"Then reducing food waste is the simplest way to achieve both those aims together."