he most frustrating thing about there still being real hunger in the world is the realization that it is so unnecessary compared to the staggering amount of food waste that goes on. The world produces more than enough food to ensure that every man, woman, and child on the planet can receive the right amount of sustenance each day.
Of course, the problem is bigger than the simple fact there is enough food. There is also more than enough money in the world for everybody. However, tens of millions of people are still impoverished.
More complex issues aside, the simple fact is that one-third of all food produced is not eaten. This is because it is either squandered or somehow spoiled before it ever gets the chance to be eaten.
A tale of two worlds
For Americans, and most people living in the affluent West, food is wasted in our own kitchens.
Either we prepare too much food, and it gets thrown away. Or we don’t get around to eating the products that we’ve bought, and they go off in our fridges and cabinets.
For those in less developed countries, food waste often happens at a much earlier point, during harvest.
There are several ways in which this can happen, such as inadequate storage systems that allow pests or mold to get at the food. Or a fundamental lack of technology that means farmers don’t have the resources to get their crops out of the field and into the market.
Food waste, poverty, conflict, and a lack of resources are the root causes of hunger worldwide.
Crazy stats and figures
It is estimated that $1 trillion of food is somehow lost or wasted every year. This figure accounts for about a third of all the world’s food. According to the U.N., If this trend could be reversed, there would be food to feed more than 2 billion people. This would make a huge difference as there are said to be 1 billion hungry people today.
The people of rich countries completely waste the same amount of food as is produced by the people of sub-Saharan Africa each year.
The amount of food waste is so vast that if it were a country, it would be the third-largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world, behind only the United States and China. That the food itself is getting wasted is a big enough problem. That this production also creates so much pollution is an entirely separate issue that is almost as equally worrying for us all.
In the United States, around 30 to 40 percent of all food is never eaten. This equates to a wastage level of over 20 pounds of food per person, per month.
In a place like sub-Saharan Africa, where the lack of food can result in hunger for so many people, $4 billion of food is lost each year post-harvest. This figure is significantly higher than the amount received in food assistance by the region.
Fortunately, the U.N. is taking the problem of global food waste very seriously. The organization aims to reduce global waste by half by 2030.
The World Food Programme has also initiated a Zero Post-Harvest Losses project that plans to sell low-cost farming equipment to farmers and provide them the necessary training to ensure that their crops are not wasted.
The WFP is behind a drive to boost local markets by sourcing school meals only with locally grown crops. They are also trying to improve basic infrastructure in less developed countries and improve food storage facilities.
It is a terrible shame that hunger still exists in the world in 2020, but significant advances have been made in the last 20 to 30 years. Hopefully, even more progress can be made in the coming decade.