Making Food Systems a Win for People and the Planet: Preventing Food Loss and Waste
This post is written by Ahmed Kablan, Ph.D., Senior Science Advisor, Bureau for Resilience and Food Security/USAID and Carolyn Hirshon, Program Specialist, Bureau for Resilience and Food Security/USAID.
On the second annual International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, we at USAID are deepening our commitment to food systems that are a win for people and the planet.
When we think about what is fueling the climate crisis, food rotting in fields and landfills may not come immediately to mind. But, that decaying food emits massive quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and, overall, food loss and waste is responsible for up to 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions annually. To put that figure in perspective, that’s more than the emissions from all the cars on Earth. We know we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 7.6% every year to meet the Paris Accords’ 1.5 degrees Celsius climate goals; achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 — cutting food loss and waste in half by 2030 — can help us get there.
At the United Nations Food Systems Summit, leaders around the world recognized the importance of efficient and sustainable food systems. Reducing food loss and waste is a critical part of that equation; it helps make safe, nutritious food more available and affordable for parents and children around the world and benefits the climate by cutting back on greenhouse gases. Preventing food from rotting on vines or in transit to markets means more nutritious produce and staple crops make it to people’s plates. Reducing food loss early in the food chain increases the amount of safe food farmers are able to sell and results in higher incomes, which results in families' ability to send their children to school, buy medicines and lead healthier lives.
Reducing food loss and waste to achieve more profitable and sustainable food chains involves a range of stakeholders and USAID is leading the way in bringing these actors to the table. For example, USAID has invested in the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for the Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss at Kansas State University, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition at Tufts University and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture at the University of California, Davis to drive research solutions and innovations that reduce food loss and make sustainable improvements to vulnerable food systems. In addition, USAID joined the Friends of Champions 12.3, a multi-sectoral coalition of organizations committed to accelerating progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which calls for cutting per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level in half and reducing food losses along production and supply chains by 2030. USAID is also creating a community of practice that will bring together leading researchers, innovators and companies to share best practices and innovations, and identify countries and commodity chains with high-impact potential to reduce food loss. We are at a critical moment for the planet and the people on it. USAID is committed to creating food systems that serve both equally.
For more information about USAID’s work to reduce food loss and waste and the community of practice, email [email protected].