World Food Day provides an occasion to highlight the plight of 870 million undernourished people in the world. File picture: African News Agency
World Food Day provides an occasion to highlight the plight of 870 million undernourished people in the world. File picture: African News Agency

World Food Day to focus on hunger and food waste

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Oct 15, 2021

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Cape Town - On World Food Day, celebrated tomorrow, the focus will be on the 10 million adults and 2.8 million children that experience hunger every week while the country wastes 10.3 million tons of food per year.

This highlights the disconnect between food security and food supply in South Africa.

University of Stellenbosch Business School senior lecturer in strategy and sustainability, Dr Jako Volschenk, said the growing world population needed food, but the environmental impacts of food production, inefficient agricultural land use, and the contradiction of rising levels of both hunger and food waste, called for a fresh approach to getting nutrition to the world sustainably.

“A growing population is only a part of the problem. The types of food produced and consumed, and the agri-food chain itself, need a rethink,” he said.

Increasing vegetarian or flexitarian diets, reducing and re-purposing food waste, and innovative use of insects as an alternative protein source and in converting food waste, were among the ways to reduce the impact of food production on climate change and biodiversity, he said.

“In addition to population growth by births, at approximately 200 000 per day, people are also living longer. World Bank data indicates that life expectancy in South Africa has increased from 53 to 64 years over the past 50 years, which implies a further 20% increase in the South African population and people needing food,” he said.

Dr Volschenk said that contrary to what many people thought, global consumption of meat had tripled since 1970, and that by 2011 the total number of chickens, cows, pigs and sheep in world agriculture outnumbered the human population by three to one.

“Human wealth has increased during the period from 1970, and with higher income, more people can afford to eat meat – but the growth in meat consumption is a major challenge to the longevity of humanity due to both its impacts on human health, and on the environment.

“South Africa’s 10.3 million tons of food waste is equivalent to more than a third of local food production. Wasted food is unacceptable given the levels of hunger in our country. And it also represents a loss of the water and energy resources used in its production, as well as food sent to landfill generating methane gases that contribute to global warming.”

More than half of food waste takes place in the middle of the supply chain, “between farm and fork” – 19% in post-harvest handling and storage and 49% in manufacturing/processing and packaging – while 18% is wasted by households and consumers.

“Methods like drying, canning, freezing foods to prolong shelf-life, and innovations in farm-to-fork production and consumption need to advance further. Initiatives by retailers to reduce food waste – better demand forecasting and supply chain management, improving cold chains, increasing donations of surplus edible but beyond-dated food, and managing organic waste to reduce contribution to landfill – are all commendable, but we need more.

“We need to do better at wasting less and getting food to people who need it,” Dr Volschenk said.

Cape Argus

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