Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Dual Impact Actions to Address Climate Change and Improve Nutrition
Globally, 30-40% of food produced is either lost or wasted, thereby contributing nothing to meet the nutrient needs of the world’s most nutritionally vulnerable people, and also exacerbating climate change. This workshop will focus on identifying and discussing post-harvest loss mitigation, innovations (technologies, processes, policies), methods and food waste reduction approaches that are actionable and easy to adapt/implement in low resource environments and how to recruit financing for these options. Additionally, this workshop will provide actionable policy and programming recommendations for policy makers and donor organizations to support reducing food loss and waste globally.
Specific workshop objectives include:
- Development of policy and programmatic recommendations (including possible financing options) to support sustainable food systems transformation with an emphasis on nutrient-dense foods in low and middle income countries (LMIC).
- Development of policy recommendations towards reducing FLW in the US (including after foods have been delivered to consumers such as identifying behavioral strategies to drive consumers behavior change)
- Identification of innovations (technologies, novel foods, behaviors, preferences, policies, and processes), with potential for scaling to support reduction of FLW
- Generation of awareness of the negative effects of loss and waste of nutrient-dense foods on both economic development and nutritional status, and the flaws in our current supply chain
- Donor organizations, governments and the private sector to allocate funding and resources for research projects and development programs to reduce FLW of nutrient-dense foods
- Elevate the need to address FLW to address multiple global issues (i.e., climate change, malnutrition, economic development).
- Framework for better quantifying FLW (aggregate and disaggregate), and recommendations for how to address key data collection gaps, including food losses (pre-harvest and post-harvest) in low vs. middle vs. high income country contexts
Climate change and food loss and waste (FLW) are trapped in a vicious cycle. Climate change is likely to increase the rate of food loss due to natural shocks, increased temperatures and pests, and in turn those losses contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation. When the produced food is not consumed, all of the arable land, fresh water, energy, fertilizers and other inputs that were used to produce that food are wasted and could have been used to produce something else. Additionally, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation associated with that food is a net loss in the system. Additionally, many smallholder farmers may expand their fields to increase yields and balance their losses. The resulting conversion of natural habitats into agricultural land has consequences for wildlife biodiversity, ecosystem health and the nearby communities who depend upon functioning ecosystem services (i.e., water regulation, etc.).
The environmental impact also extends beyond the field. Food diverted to landfills rather than being composted, used as feed, or otherwise recycled, results in the production of methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that has approximately 28-36 times more warming potential over a 100-year period compared to carbon dioxide. The World Resources Institute calculated that if global FLW were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, surpassed only by China and the United States. Thus, initiatives to reduce FLW are critical to combat climate change and improve environmental health.
FLW has consequences for human health and nutrition by decreasing the amount of food available on the market. According to a report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), a 25 percent reduction in FLW across the world by 2050 would decrease the food calorie gap by 12 percent. Beyond calories, nutrient-dense foods (i.e., fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, etc.) are often highly perishable. These products are often lost due to bruising or spoilage, thus decreasing the availability of nutrient-rich foods on the market. Therefore, FLW reduction activities are an effective way to contribute to improve the nutritional value, affordability, and safety of food.
The workshop will bring together scientists, private sector actors and government officials to identify opportunities for action on reducing FLW. Participants will represent a diverse group of actors, each of which have a significant stake in ensuring FLW is reduced and that support policies and programming to reduce FLW. The group will be tasked to identify research and evidence gaps, including data gaps, and innovations/technology needs to drive policy actions and development of technologies and innovations (including novel foods and manufacturing advances) to cut food loss and waste in agricultural products. Recommendations will be prioritized and communicated with federal agencies and donor organizations to advocate for resources to fill these gaps.
Intended workshop deliverables include a peer-reviewed publication on workshop findings, as well as reports to government agencies, donor organizations, and the private sector on priority development strategies and research projects (including data improvement, technologies, novel foods, behaviors, preferences, policies, and processes) to reduce FLW. Policy and programmatic recommendations (including possible financing options) to support sustainable food systems transformation will be tailored based on regional context.