By Danielle Nierenberg
The holidays are all about excess. Overpriced gifts, overbooked schedules, and—of course—too much food.
Recently, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called issued the Zero Hunger Challenge, propelling nations to increase access to food, prevent stunting, improve environmental sustainability in the food system, and increase productivity on farms as well as reduce all food loss and waste to zero.
Earlier this year, Ban called for nations to correct the inequity of food waste in a world plagued by hunger. "By reducing food waste, we can save money and resources, minimize environmental impacts and, most importantly, move towards a world where everyone has enough to eat,” he urged.
Farmers, food processors and retailers, and consumers are already taking the initiative to alleviate food loss and waste by finding innovative ways to reduce food loss and food waste. Some of the most interesting solutions are from organizations such as Growing Power, which picks up and composts some 400,000 pounds of food waste from Midwest businesses each week. In New York, City Harvest collects food that would have otherwise been wasted from restaurants and distributes it to those in need. And the Food Recovery Network is mobilizing university students around the country to distribute food from college cafeterias and catering facilities to homeless shelters.
On the other side of the world, fishers in The Gambia are smoking abundant fish harvests. In India, farmers are drying papayas and mangos to help make sure that families have access to vitamin A and extra income from the sale of dried fruit throughout the year.
And in Pakistan, the United Nations helped farmers reduce grain storage losses by up to 70 percent by replacing jute bags and mud silos with metal grain storage containers that prevent moisture and vermin from eating grain.
On the policy side, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration need to work together to ensure sell-by, expiration dates, and use-by dates are regulated and easy for consumers to understand.
And more is needed to combat food loss and waste internationally.
Today, at the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition 5th Annual Forum, the Milan Protocol was released, calling on international leaders and food system stakeholders to improve agricultural sustainability, control food price instability, encourage healthy food choices, improve land rights—and combat food waste.
In 2014, the world leaders, businesses, civil society, and eaters should resolve to make waste in the food system part of our past, not our future.