SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction

Improvement in data quality and availability facilitates sustainable solutions for food loss and food waste reduction

29 Mar 2016

The Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction works on capacity development along the food supply chain and at institutional level for evidence-based policies, strategies, and state and non-state actors investments.

Knowledge is generated and disseminated to facilitate, among others, multi-actor engagement for harmonized methodologies and effective and sustainable solutions, including investments that have short, medium and long term returns for all agricultural and food system stakeholders, including the end consumers. 

Food loss and waste (FLW) represents economic losses for all food supply chains actors, including the end consumers. FLW also represents a highly inefficient use of resources (e.g. labour, water, energy and land) as well as avoidable climate change and social impacts.

From 10 to 11 September 2014 the FAO-UNEP programme on sustainable food systems hosted a workshop on Knowledge and Information for Sustainable Food Systems at FAO headquarters in Rome. The workshop included three contributions addressing directly FLW:

  • Data from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) indicates food losses in different farm operations and in the supply chain from farm gate to retailer level for cereals, pulses and oilseeds. Food losses reached 3.9 to 6 percent, 4.3 to 6.1 percent and 2.8 to 10 percent, respectively. Losses in fruits and vegetables have been reported as 5.8 to 18 percent and 6.8 to 12.5 percent, respectively. The total monetary loss was estimated as Rs. 44 000 crores (USD7 330 million).

  • The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) addressed FLW reduction in the context of sustainable food systems based on a report by its High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE). CFS recommended an enabling environment facilitated through the “food use-not-loss-or-waste” hierarchy (i.e. prevention, recovery and redistribution of safe and nutritious food to people). The FAO paper explores first the global and regional policy settings. It then provides a conceptual framework for recovery and redistribution of safe and nutritious food for human consumption that is performed by food banks, among others. Subsequently, the paper describes the roles that food banks may have in the food system, with questionnaire-based evidence from 44 countries from the Federation of European Food Banks (FEBA) and food banks in the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) on: (i) number of people assisted (societal dimension); (ii) institutional/policy/regulatory frameworks of reference; and (iii) options for operational implementation. It concludes with identifying food banks’ needs such as: public– private partnerships; implementation capacity to address an increasing social demand; and tools for monitoring and evaluation, including food safety, quality and nutrition.

  • The importance of measuring food losses has been reaffirmed for Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. This paper aims to present several initiatives launched by FAO and its partners to improve knowledge on FLW and its causes and to provide actors with methodologies and tools adapted to their needs. The work includes a definitional framework of FLW; a food supply chain case studies methodology; FAO work on the Global Food Loss Index as Indicator for SDG 12.3; the FLW Measuring Protocol and Standard (a multi-stakeholder effort to which FAO is contributing as member of its Steering Committee); the Guidance on the Prevention and Reduction of Food and Drink Waste (a product of the Global Initiative on FLW Reduction and its Think.Eat.Save campaign and the FAO/UNEP Sustainable Food Systems Programme).


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