- Setting our table to prevent and reduce food waste – from wholesale to households
On 29 September 2020, we observe the world’s first annual ‘International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste’. This day highlights the importance of minimising food waste and presents a call to action to everyone along supply chains right down to the consumers.
During this time, when Sri Lanka’s efforts to counteract bio-waste pollution and landfilling are being emphasised, in the year 2018/19, 50-60% of the total solid waste transported in the Western Province, to the three dumping sites in Kaduwela, Karadiyana and Kerawalapitiya by 20 local authorities, was food waste.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) highlights that prevention of food waste is key because it preserves food at the highest socio-economic and environmental value for producers, processors, distributors, and households. Prevention and reduction of food waste, from wholesale to households, can support food access for all, especially those most vulnerable in the face of food insecurity and climate change.
State and Private Sector collaborations and partnerships are vital for successful food waste prevention and reduction actions through investments in infrastructure, better food packaging and portioning, and enhanced knowledge on the impact of one’s food choices on health, the environment, and the economy. By cutting back on food waste, we save money on food not purchased to be thrown out by consumers, labour and resources such as water and energy to be consumed in vain by producers and plastic packaging to be landfilled by retailers, to name a few. To achieve this, we all need to adopt the mind-set and behavioural changes and follow up with concrete action.
The Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, supported by FAO and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), has launched a project on ‘innovative approaches to reduce, recycle and reuse food waste in urban areas’ aiming towards:
- Raising awareness on the impact of and solutions for food waste. Enabling stakeholders’ consultations through face-to-face or digital meetings;
- Collaboration and co-ordination of stakeholders for food waste data collection in 10 urban areas and estimates of its socio-economic and environmental impacts. A multidisciplinary team, including academia, are conducting in-depth research to identify knowledge gaps and innovative solutions;
- Drafting an evidence-based Urban Strategy and Roadmap on Food Waste Prevention, Reduction, and Management in Sri Lanka, for which consultations with the public sector, the private sector, and civil society are being held.
The food crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the fragility of our food systems. We can all make a difference. Act now on food waste prevention and reduction!
Reducing food waste can bring about benefits to society as a whole and can result in:
- increased food availability to the most vulnerable
- a reduction in the emissions of Green House Gases (GHG)
- reduced pressure on land and water resources
- increased productivity and economic growth
As a run up to the 2020 ‘International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste’, the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, together with the FAO and IWMI, conducted three digital consultations on food waste prevention and reduction for universities, food services, and retailers/supermarkets. One more digital workshop is planned for schools in October.