FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Changing mindsets among consumers helping to reduce food waste in Turkey

The most recent numbers show that a considerable amount of the food being wasted is generated in households. In Turkey alone, around 19 million tonnes of food gets lost or wasted every year. This highlights consumer behaviour as one of the underlying drivers of food waste globally.

To ensure improvement in this area, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry last year kicked off a national media campaign named ‘Save Your Food’, as part of the SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction, to raise awareness of the impacts of food loss and waste, to encourage action, and to promote collaboration along the food supply chain.

Today, to celebrate its first anniversary, the campaign brought together numerous representatives of the private, public, and non-profit sectors, as well as from academia, who are actively working to reduce food loss and waste in Turkey. The celebration allowed parties to take stock of the campaign’s public impact and achievements to date, and to present the details of upcoming activities.

So far, the campaign has seen support from several public and private partners to help realise actions outlined in Turkey’s National Strategy and Action Plan on reducing food loss and waste, and public events aiming to trigger sustainable behavioural change. 

It has reached over 21 million people via awareness-raising activities with the support of Istanbul and Ankara metropolitan municipalities, the Union of Municipalities of Turkey, United Nations agencies, diplomatic missions, social-impact groups, Turkey’s major players in food production, retail, and hospitality sectors, media agencies, public figures, and influencers.

The engagement of partners, including the country’s largest producers and retailers, has also been essential for improving the general public’s understanding of the issue.

Viorel Gutu, Subregional Coordinator for Central Asia and FAO Representative in Turkey, explained at the opening: “I am pleased to confirm to you today that these activities have resulted in behavioural change, particularly in the way food is consumed.”

For example, consumers have become more conscious about date labelling while shopping. More people tend to re-evaluate the leftovers and have started composting rather than throwing away food.

“In addition, we have started a workshop series to encourage the integration of food-banking practices into municipalities’ social aid programmes and with this, we will both help develop their capacity to receive surplus food donations and to reach more people in need at a low cost,” Gutu added.

"The Save Your Food campaign was jointly prepared with FAO and we continue to collaborate,” said Bekir Pakdemirli, Turkish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. “To measure the campaign’s impact among households and consumers, we conducted preliminary and subsequent tests. According to the results, and the Turkish Statistical Institute's food inflation data, in one year we managed to save food worth about 100 million USD.”

“Thanks to campaign messages, consumer awareness around the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates increased by 20 percent.  The number of people who compost wasted food also increased from 3 to 6 percent, while a significant decline (from 22 to 13 percent) was registered in the amount of food waste from overcooking."

"While we are fighting climate change, we continue to waste food, which further contributes to the climate crisis,” added Emine Erdoğan. “Not only in our country, but in every society, food is one of the fundamental elements of culture. Thankfully, the Turkish cuisine is well-known for its waste-free cooking, as leftovers are often used for other recipes. I would like to encourage all of you to go back to our traditional cooking practices, which I believe, have a significant role to play in preventing food waste.”

Dilara Koçak, a renowned nutritionist and active campaign supporter, participated in the event as master of ceremony.

The celebration also hosted the ‘Grown for a bin’ exhibition, featuring photos by Austrian artist Klaus Pichler, visualising the problem of food waste. The photos describe the connection between the way food is produced and distributed globally and individual wastage of food.

1 July 2021, Ankara, Turkey