You Have the Power to End the Global Food Waste Scandal

By Selina Juul, Founder of Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark (Stop Spild Af Mad), Food Waste Expert, Food Activist, Author, International Keynote Speaker, TEDx Speaker

 

power to-end global food wasteHere is some food for thought. Imagine, after finishing your grocery shopping, you take one out of three shopping bags of food you just bought and dispose it in the nearest garbage bin. Basically, that's exactly what's happening with our food globally: a third of all the food produced in the world is either lost or wasted.

Recently, the UN said that if the amount of food wasted around the world was reduced by just 25%, there would be enough food to feed all the malnourished people on this planet.

This month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the first ever national target for food waste: to reduce USA's food waste by 50% by the year 2030. This is a good start. I remember back in 2010 speaking in the European Parliament and signing a joint declaration to pledge politicians to take action on reducing food waste by 50% by the year 2025. Finally, it seems that governments around the world start taking the global food waste scandal seriously -- and even the UN has included the fight against food waste among the new 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The good news is that this reduction of food waste is in fact achievable, especially in the Western countries.

Part of the solution
Earlier this fall, The Huffington Post brought some good news: the food waste in Denmark has been reduced by 25% within the last five years. It looks like a European record, only followed by the UK (21%) -- and news were spreading like wildfire from USA to Asia to South America.

Now, how did we Danes achieve such reduction in food waste in just five years? We still have a long way to go, but we are on the right track.

While many environmental NGO's all across the globe look upon the food industry and farmers as monoliths which Can Never Ever be Moved, our NGO Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark (Stop Spild Af Mad) invites collaboration and focuses on the solutions.

We are all part of the problem -- and we are all part of the solution. Pointing fingers and creating scapegoats won't work in the long run: If you need to end the global food waste scandal, you need to be united against food waste.

Ordinary consumers -- people like you and I -- are easy to mobilize and have an incredible power to change the future of our food system. We the consumers can create a strong movement and demand, with which the food industry must deal with -- and eventually adapt to. That's exactly why our NGO targets and mobilizes the consumers.

A fifth of the Danish population is singles without the need of bulk discounts. Our NGO made a buzz in the press -- and now several retail chains offer single item discounts. More and more Danish people demand doggy bags in restaurants, so once again our NGO made a push for it -- and now already over 300 Danish restaurants offer doggy bags to their customers.

Less waste, more green growth
Right now, the stop wasting food trend in Denmark has become so big, that almost every week, new food reduction initiatives pop up in supermarkets, restaurants, canteens and food industry. The fight against food waste has become a strong demand among the consumers - and it is becoming a competitive factor among the retailers as well, which is taken seriously by the industry.

Because of the consumer demand for solutions on less food waste, the industry starts listening to our voices. For example, some Danish supermarkets introduce "ugly" fruits and vegetables of all shapes. Initiatives like this also contribute to a bigger upstream growth: the farmers start selling their stuff, which they previously couldn't sell.

Today, because of the stop wasting food trend, almost every Danish supermarket sells food close its expiry date at a reduced price. Thus, people can buy good food at a reduced price, the supermarket avoids food waste and earns some money on the food, which otherwise would not have been sold.

Danish canteens, restaurants and hospitals start reducing food waste by serious numbers, which saves them a lot of money. Money earned or money saved is a great incentive for the food industry to reduce its food waste.

And you can start the fight against food waste right here, right now -- after you've finished reading this article. Start using what you already have in your fridge. Make shopping lists and stick to them while grocery shopping. Choose smaller shopping carts and shopping baskets in the grocery store, if it's possible. Be mindful of the portion sizes while cooking, and use smaller plates when serving food. Save and use your leftovers: leftovers are free food, not a punishment. By these small steps, you will save both time and money -- a win-win situation.

Food waste reduction champions
At the moment, the global number of food waste reduction champions and initiatives is growing: USA has world's no. 1 food waste expert, the author and campaigner Jonathan Bloom. As well as NRDC's Dana Gunders and Food Tank's co-founder Danielle Nierenberg. World Resources Institute USA is now developing the Food Loss & Waste Protocol -- and the Canadian movie makers Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer recently made an award-winning Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story movie.

In Australia, the OzHarvest is feeding thousands with surplus food, in Europe, the UN FAO launched the SAVE FOOD initiative and a FAO/UNEP campaign, Think.Eat.Save. EU projects like FUSIONS and REFRESH take a scientific approach on food waste, while UK's Love Food Hate Waste campaign by WRAP targets the households. In Italy, Barilla CFN is developing the Milan Protocol, while all over the world new start-ups and events against food waste are gaining speed. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Our NGO is involved in many of the above-mentioned initiatives, and I currently work to initiate the world's first international Think Tank against food waste.

If we helped reducing the food waste in Denmark by 25%, imagine what we can achieve globally.

Let's make a united stand against food waste -- starting today.

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