September Is Food Loss and Waste Month on Agrilinks
Welcome to Food Loss and Waste Month on Agrilinks! This month, we celebrate the fourth International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste on September 29, 2023, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has announced that the theme for this year is “Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Taking Action to Transform Agrifood Systems.” This month, we will be sharing a series of blog posts and resources from our partners, featuring examples from the field and actionable recommendations for the development community. With the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) and other high-level climate and food systems events on the horizon this fall and winter, now is the time to highlight the triple-win opportunity of addressing food loss and waste (FLW) to improve climate, nutrition and food security, and economic development.
Over one-third of the world’s food is lost or wasted, undermining efforts to end hunger and malnutrition, while contributing 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to FAO, 30% of global food loss occurs during agricultural production and harvest, while the remaining 70% occurs during postharvest, processing and packaging, retail and distribution, and consumption stages. When food rots, it emits methane — a powerful greenhouse gas with 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. If FLW were a country, it would be the third-largest producer of greenhouse gasses in the world after the United States and China.
Addressing FLW is critical to global food security, nutrition, sustainable food systems and climate change mitigation. Eliminating FLW would provide enough food to feed two billion of the world’s hungry for two years. Moreover, initiatives to reduce FLW are critical to combat climate change and improve environmental health. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that FLW is the source of nearly 50 million tons (Mt) of methane emission per year and that additional measures, like a shift to renewable energy, residential and commercial energy efficiency, and a reduction in FLW, can reduce methane emissions by 15% by 2030. For example, reducing FLW by 50%, in alignment with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3, would lead to an abatement of about 5-7 Mt per year of methane emissions.
We cannot achieve the triple wins of addressing FLW by acting in isolation. The global development community is working together to synergize efforts to improve nutrition and food security and increase farmers’ incomes while also decreasing methane emissions from food rotting in landfills. In July 2023, the USAID Center for Nutrition and the Feed the Future Food Systems for Nutrition Innovation Lab hosted a technical workshop with our G7 development colleagues to advance our collective work on reducing FLW in our programming and advocacy. Potential areas for collaboration discussed included: encouraging greater financing for and incentivization of FLW efforts, tracking FLW investments through better reporting, improving measurement of FLW and advancing FLW messaging at COP28 and other global fora. Participants were eager to foster collaboration and establish a common agenda to better leverage donor government efforts to reduce FLW.
Similarly, the U.S. government works collaboratively through the Federal Interagency Collaboration to Reduce Food Loss and Waste (FIFLAW). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USAID work with external entities to leverage the private and the nongovernmental sectors to influence national and global change to reduce FLW. Join us on September 26, 2023, for our FLW Theme Month Webinar discussing this interagency collaboration on FLW. Register for the webinar here.
We need your help, too! This past May, the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) Summit demonstrated the energy and political will to tackle key agrifood system challenges. Under AIM for Climate innovation sprints, private actors (e.g., for-profits, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and academia) come together to commit to solving problems in our food system to make them more climate smart, and put concrete dollar amounts, solutions and partnerships together. Despite the growing and energetic global community working on solving FLW, there are currently ZERO innovation sprints on FLW reduction. AIM for Climate innovation sprints are the perfect venue to bring the energy of this community toward action that solves FLW challenges, and you can learn more here.
And don’t forget to subscribe to the USAID’s Kitchen Sink Podcast to listen to our special episode this month! If you have a suggestion for a topic or speaker for a future episode, or if you would like to participate in the podcast, please contact [email protected].
Please bookmark this post and follow @Agrilinks and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter to see the latest. If you would like to submit a post or resource to Agrilinks or share what you are doing to address FLW, please reach out to [email protected].