Food waste is one of the major concerns facing humans today. It occurs at multiple segments across the supply chain, at the primary production, harvest, and post-harvest level. However, one of the significant actors of food waste is the consumer. Food waste at the consumer level is exponential and needs great attention. Food waste can be prevented through effective reduction and management practices such as prevention, reduction, redistribution, or reuse.
Food Waste causes Climate Change. Here's how we stop it.
Challenges of food systems
Present-day food systems are facing many challenges such as population growth and climate change. These challenges are a major threat to global food security and sustainability.
In addition to that, the other major problem is the wastage of food. Food waste often occurs when people buy more food than they need and then let this food be spoiled at home or make too large portions of meals that do not get eaten. Such attitudes pose serious pressure on natural resources and the environment. The overproduction and oversupply of food contribute to its waste by consumers.
The first definition of food waste was coined by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1981. According to FAO, food waste is "some wholesome edible material intended for human consumption, arising at any point in the food supply chain that is instead discarded, lost, degraded or consumed by pests”. Food waste by humans has reached a frightening level with serious impacts on society and there is a need for innovative solutions for the prevention and reduction of food waste.
According to a UN report, around one-third of the edible parts of food are lost or wasted across the supply chain. The main reason for food waste is the homogenization of modern cropping systems and the expansion of food production. Food waste by its consumers is linked to food poverty, insecurity, and hunger.
Solutions to reduce food waste
Food waste reductions at primary production, harvest and distribution levels present high-value solutions. For example, crop losses due to unexpected conditions harm farmers's business and livelihood. At the primary production level, through weather and diseases, food losses and waste can be reduced. Well-planned irrigation and mechanized harvesting of crop produce can also contribute to food waste reduction.
Post-harvest food waste reductions involve the use of advanced technologies and methods. Such as the availability of cold storage, drying, storage, and packaging facilities. These methods not only prevent food waste but also enhance food quality and safety. Thus, post-harvest handling of crop yield and produce will prevent food waste and losses.
Another important method in food waste reduction is prevention. In this method, the activities are directed towards primary producers and consumers. These two actors, known as "co-producers", have direct interaction with each other to circumvent unsustainable industrial food systems. These interactions enable primary producers to quickly scan the food demand of consumers both in quality and quantity. Sometimes, producers pre-sell their produce to avoid food loss and waste (FLW).
The second approach to food waste prevention is awareness and educational campaigns. The aim of these campaigns is communication and training sessions on conscious consumption. These campaigns provide people opportunities to use new tools such as food waste diaries, set up groups, and cooking recipes. The awareness campaigns at the consumer level present higher value effectivity in food waste prevention. These pieces of training also shed light on the food waste-related consequences (hunger, poverty, malnutrition, etc).
Food rescue or waste prevention at restaurants
In restaurants, food waste occurs in three steps: food preparation, service, and client consumption behavior. Effective management practices at restaurants and cafes could minimize food waste and also their impact on society. These measures are prevention, reduction, and reuse. Because reducing food waste is a key sustainability factor in the foodservice industry.
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Management strategies at restaurants for the rescue of food
At restaurants, chefs can prevent food waste and loss (FWL) through alternative recipes from leftovers. For example, soup, gravies, and broths can be made from leftovers. And ruined fruits and vegetables can be juiced for drinks. The provision of proper storage conditions also prevents food waste as the correct refrigeration conditions enhance the shelf life of food products.
Food waste during the service phase is also crucial and, if not planned properly, can cause large amounts of food losses. For example, buffets in foodservice prepare larger amounts of food than needed. Catering services also generate a considerable amount of daily food waste. It is not possible to reuse or donate these food products due to hygiene restrictions. Both buffets and catering services also considerably impact profitability and sustainability.
At this stage, chefs, waiters, and restaurant managers need educational training on how to change their behavior. Customers also need to order food smartly and responsibly to reduce the amount of food thrown away from each meal. The smart and educational training of staff will add value to the education of clients. These activities will allow the clients to order food carefully to avoid leftovers. Providing accurate information about portion control and calories in each size portion can also prevent food waste during consumption level.
Educational campaigns, communication, and training can ensure proper prevention and reduction of food waste at the producer and consumer levels. Holistic and conscientious approaches can add value to food security and sustainability.
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- FAO (2019). 15 quick tips for reducing food waste and becoming a Food hero. Available at: http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1309609/ (Accessed on 8 October 2021).