Decreasing Food Waste
Food waste is any food fit for human consumption that one disposes of or uses for a differing purpose either due to choice or circumstances such as food expiry. In a 2014 report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that food waste compounds the severity of poverty because it negatively impacts hunger, “nutrition, income generation and economic growth.” An essential point of the report is that the need for decreasing food waste is a global issue and food waste occurs at every level of the food supply chain.

The Global Issue of Food Waste

In lower-income countries, the barriers to decreasing food waste include, “managerial or technical limitations in harvesting techniques, storage, transportation, processing, cooling facilities, infrastructure, packaging and marketing systems.” For middle-income to higher-income countries, food waste often occurs on the consumer side, for example, improper meal planning that leads to food wastage. In addition, policies, such as agricultural subsidies, can lead to the excess production of certain crops. Food safety regulations may also lead to the wastage of food that is still fit for human consumption.

To visualize the dizzying scale of food waste, the FAO reported in 2021 that “17% of total global food production” goes to waste. The UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021 confirms this, highlighting further that in 2019 global food waste equated to 931 million tonnes of food waste, 61% of which occurred at the household level. The report finds that “household per capita food waste generation” is similar across all nations, developing and developed. In brief, food waste is an issue that spans across class and country lines — a global crisis that requires a global solution.

How the FAO is Fighting Food Insecurity

The FAO is fighting food insecurity through education and collaboration with other governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private partnerships. Among these educational endeavors, the FAOs’ SAVE FOOD initiative aims to reduce food waste in SAARC countries (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) by educating smallholder farmers on proper post-harvest management practices. Post-harvest loss occurs at high rates of 20%-40%, mainly due to a lack of awareness and knowledge, which can affect “food availability, food security and nutrition.” Especially in countries with “traditional fruit and vegetable supply chains,” namely Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, the SAVE FOOD initiative prioritizes post-harvest management training.

How the Private Sector Fights Food Insecurity

Private sector partners are addressing food waste-created food insecurity at all levels, from the production of food to its consumption. One of these partners, GrainPro, is decreasing food waste through its high-tech “GrainPro Cocoon” in Bangladesh, one of the FAO’s prioritized SAARC countries. The GrainPro Cocoon decreases food waste because it preserves dry grains, spices and seeds “in an airtight and moisture-tight container.” The containers are uniquely suitable for Bangladesh and other countries prone to flooding. GrainPro containers are easily transportable and can protect contents from flooding up to as high as a meter.

Under a Bangladeshi Department of Agriculture Extension project in partnership with the official GrainPro partners of Bangladesh, Allied Agro Industries and ACI Motors, 800 units of the GrainPro Cocoon went out to Bangladeshi farmers. Farmers who used the GrainPro Cocoon to store paddy seeds saw a “20% increase in production” due to improved seed quality, which positively impacted farmers’ income. For a country with about 48% of the population economically relying on agriculture, this continued collaboration will enable people to escape extreme poverty.

10x20x30 Initiative

The World Resources Institute’s (WRI) 10x20x30 Initiative is a compelling development in decreasing food waste. The initiative began in 2019 by the WRI Champions 12.3 coalition, which is a joint team of “executives from governments, businesses, international organizations, research institutions, farmer groups and civil society” all committed to reducing food waste. This coalition aims to reach U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, namely to reduce by 50% “global food waste at retail and consumer levels” while minimizing “food loss during production and supply.”

In 2020, the WRI rallied 12 food retailers and foodservice providers, including “six of the world’s largest food retailers” and secured commitments from these providers to recruit 20 of their own respective suppliers to focus on achieving SDG 12.3. The commitments led to nearly 200 food suppliers globally committing to cutting their food waste in half by 2030.

A remarkable amount of progress is visible in decreasing food waste as a result of the commitments of the international community. Going forward, global participation in decreasing food waste must continue in order to reach the global goals of combating hunger and achieving zero poverty.

– Chester Lankford
Photo: Flickr

Food insecurity in GhanaMany consider Ghana “one of the most stable and democratic countries in West Africa.” However, poverty rates are high, standing at 25.5% in 2020, according to the World Bank. In the last 30 years, Ghana has made great progress in reducing poverty from a 49% poverty rate in 1990 to a 13% poverty rate in 2018. Still, inequalities exist between the north and south of the nation as well as between the urban and rural populations. During the lean season in 2020, the World Food Programme noted that more than 21,000 people suffered from food insecurity in Ghana, particularly in the northern region.

Difficulties in Northern Ghana

Food insecurity in Ghana is more severe in the north of the country largely due to climatic issues. In the northern region, 90% of Ghanaian households depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, however, this region only has one rainy season in comparison to the south, which has two rainy seasons. This climatic difference impacts food production and worsens both poverty and food insecurity in Ghana’s north. Farmer also face other issues such as “low [market] prices, poor road infrastructure, lack of access to finance, inadequate markets, post-harvest losses, insufficient education and knowledge[and] unsustainable farming systems.” Due to an agricultural dependence among rural people, food insecurity and poverty largely affect rural populations.

The World Food Programme (WFP) Combats Food Insecurity in Ghana

The WFP’s work in Ghana, in general, focuses on four key areas to fight food insecurity in Ghana.

  1. Private Sector Collaboration. To address stunting and nutritional deficiencies, the WFP provided support to the private sector to supply and promote “affordable and safe fortified nutritious foods.” For example, the WFP gave technical and financial assistance to two companies and linked these manufacturers to local small-scale farmers. The two Ghanaian companies manufacture Tomvita and Maisoya, which are fortified foods that improve the nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding women. The companies aim to extend production to supplemental foods for children.
  2. Nutritional Assistance. The WFP partners with various government institutions to fight against food insecurity in Ghana and address nutritional deficiencies. The partnership aims to ensure citizens consume nutritious local-based diets and learn behaviors conducive to good health. The WFP also supplies electronic vouchers to supplement the nutrition of pregnant or breastfeeding women and children younger than 2.
  3. Food System Resilience. The WFP connects small-scale Ghanaian farmers to local markets “to increase the availability, access and utilization of staples foods” such as “maize, millet, cowpeas and soybeans.” So far, the WFP has connected “10,000 smallholder farmers to two industrial agro-food processing companies that produce specialized blended nutritious foods.” The WFP also aims to strengthen the food supply chain and ensure proper “post-harvest facilities, technologies and services” to improve the quality and safety of foods.
  4. Policy-Making Assistance and Capacity Expansion. The WFP is offering its support and services to improve Ghana’s existing programs and develop policies that focus on combating malnutrition and establishing adequate food systems. This involves connecting Ghana’s national school feeding initiative to the country’s agricultural arena. The WFP helps Ghana to implement food security monitoring measures and establish guidelines to “improve food quality and safety and emergency preparedness.”

Impact in Numbers

According to a WFP Ghana Country Brief published in August 2021, for the year 2021 overall, the WFP aimed to help 45,000 people through nutritional assistance. In August 2021 alone, more than 4,500 people “received direct food assistance through vouchers.” If one looks at the gender proportions of beneficiaries, women formed 72% of the beneficiaries while men accounted for 28%.  Moreover, in 2021, the WFP helped 22,020 small-scale farmers to increase their capacity and connect to markets.

Even though the WFP is seeing success in improving food insecurity in Ghana, worsening environmental conditions like drought stand as additional barriers to food security. Through ongoing support in strengthening the country’s food systems and resilience overall, Ghana can remain out of famine.

– Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr

Food Systems in Afghanistan
In the wake of Afghanistan’s government collapse in August 2021, the nation’s humanitarian crisis has plunged to new depths and will continue on this path if Afghanistan does not receive the necessary aid. Of the total population, 41.7 million, about 23 million Afghans, are experiencing food insecurity due to the failure of food systems in Afghanistan. However, organizations are making efforts to combat the hunger crisis and strengthen food systems in the nation.

The State of Food Systems in Afghanistan

About 8.7 million Afghans currently endure “emergency levels of food insecurity,” and according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), without urgent action, Afghanistan could see a 97% universal poverty rate by mid-2022. The loss of more than 500,00 Afghan jobs since August 2021 and the steep incline of food prices leave Afghan families depleted of food with no income to purchase more. The Afghan people have no way of obtaining a sufficient supply of food nor can they harvest sufficient crops due to the harsh winter and severe drought.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

Since the start of 2021, the World Food Programme has assisted “15 million Afghans with food and nutrition support” while prioritizing the most vulnerable population segments such as young children and pregnant/breastfeeding women. The WFP’s “targeted supplementary feeding [program]” has addressed the nutritional needs of more than “500,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women” and more than 1 million malnourished children younger than 5. The WFP aims to “reach 23 million Afghans in 2022,” including 1 million children through its school feeding program.

The organization works with the Afghan government and commercial partners to strengthen the food systems in Afghanistan by supporting local small-scale farmers  as well as “building local milling and fortification capacity and strengthening value chains and food safety measures.” The WFP assists the Afghan government and humanitarian organizations “in beneficiary management, supply chain, information and communication technology and facilities and information management” to ensure a targeted response to citizens’ needs.

USAID Assists Afghanistan

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been taking measures to improve food systems in Afghanistan for the last two decades and has vastly strengthened Afghanistan’s agricultural sector. This is crucial work because about 80% of all Afghans depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. USAID’s efforts intend to scale up Afghanistan’s agricultural exports, expand “the reach of Afghan agricultural goods to bolster job creation” and distribute more agricultural goods throughout the country.

In 2010, USAID created a $100 million Agricultural Development Fund to supply credit to Afghan farmers and small-scale agricultural businesses to help them accumulate resources such as seeds, fertilizer and equipment. As of 2021, this fund has distributed “$132.7 million in loans to more than 43,600 Afghan farmers.” USAID has also assisted in creating more than 657,000 full-time agricultural-related employment opportunities, which has contributed to reducing poverty in the nation and strengthening food systems in Afghanistan.

Programs that are geared toward improving food systems in Afghanistan are essential in fighting the nation’s hunger crisis. Implementing these programs will increase food distribution throughout the country and strengthen Afghanistan’s agricultural sector.

– Isabella Elmasry
Photo: Max Pixel

Farming in the Sahel
Desertification is a problem that those living in the Sahel Region have faced for many years. Desertification is when areas of viable land for farming dry up and are absorbed or transformed into a more desert-like climate. The Sahel Region spans 10 African countries including Burkina Faso, Chad and Cameroon. The Sahel Region has lost millions of hectares of easily accessible farming land to the desert, thus creating food insecurity and loss of income for thousands, if not millions, in the region.

The Impact of Desertification

Desertification is the official term for the process when fertile land, typically in an arid, semi-arid or sub-humid area, loses enough moisture to receive classification as desertland or drylands. The drylands are 40% of the earth’s land surface. According to the United Nations, the rate of degradation in areas susceptible to desertification has sped up 30 more times than in previous years. Increased human activity and the lack of rainfall for extended periods are the leading causes of dryland desertification. Desertified lands officially are 10% of the Earth’s land surface. Many families in areas at risk of desertification rely on farming for their income. But, as the land dries, farming becomes impossible.

Desertification hits some of the most vulnerable populations as it takes away income sources. Desertified land can neither grow crops nor provide the food or land necessary for livestock. The land that some once coveted for farming now cannot retain water. The income that agriculture and livestock farming on desertified land formerly bought no longer exists.

Farming in the Sahel Region

The Sahel Region is officially a semi-arid climate, making farming difficult. Large companies do not typically organize farming in the Sahel Region. Instead, farming is family or community-run and provides food immediately for the owners and operators of the farms. There is little food or livestock traded elsewhere to earn income. Additionally, there is little to no developed infrastructure for communities to develop commercial farming.

Farming in the Sahel Region does not provide a lot of income, nor is it located in an area with highly-ranked or flourishing economies. It has, however, in many past years, contributed at least 45% of each region’s gross domestic product. Many countries in the Sahel Region employ the majority of their workforce in the agriculture sector. In half of the countries of the Sahel Region, poverty rates are as high as 40%. Therefore, the income of the Sahel Region farmers is vital.

In Chad, farmers earn an average of $253 a month. Mali farmers earn less than Chad farmers, with an average monthly income of $169. Senegal farmers earn around $173 a month. These farmers earn enough to sustain themselves, but there is rarely extra money to circulate into the local economy.

How to Improve Farming in the Sahel Region

Farming in the Sahel Region is a race against the clock as the region faces desertification. Organizations such as Context Global (CGD) invest in small farms to bring about economic growth and improvements to the Sahel Region farming communities. CGD does this by creating international links between the farms. CGD builds commercial links without requiring membership in an overarching organization so the farms can maintain independence and gain more experience to advance their operations and incomes.

In the desertified lands, though, farming is incredibly difficult. To combat desertification, there is a new farming tool called the Delfino Plough. The plough brings the ground back to life. This plow, in particular, can cover a minimum of 10 hectares a day to revitalize the land. As the plow moves along along the farmland, it injects seeds deep into the ground that are rich in vitamins to allow the soil to sustain life. As nutrients seep into the ground, it can revert back to its original state and sustain more and more crops.

Creating Opportunity

The more crops that farms are capable of producing, the more they can earn and provide for their landowners and communities. The land brought back to life saves the farmers money as well. If they can grow hay instead of buying it, farmers save money that they can then spend on other farming necessities. With the efforts of organizations such as CGD and tools such as the Delfino Plough, the farmers will have the opportunity to expand their farming operations and increase their immediate incomes while saving for the future.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in South SudanThe North African country of South Sudan is currently facing its worst hunger crisis to date. Estimations indicate that close to 8.5 million people out of the nation’s total population of 12 million people “will face severe hunger” in 2022, marking an 8% spike from 2021. There are several reasons for the worsening levels of food insecurity in South Sudan.

Issues Contributing to Food Insecurity in South Sudan

South Sudan’s most recent civil war, beginning in December 2013 and ending in February 2020, is one of the many reasons for the major food insecurity in South Sudan, among other issues. According to Oxfam International, the war caused an “economic free–fall,” leading to rising food prices and a crumbling economy. Furthermore, food stocks have diminished and harvests are poor due to extreme weather conditions.

The country is facing “the worst floods in 60 years,” affecting close to 1 million people and serving as a significant contributor to food insecurity in South Sudan. In just seven months, from May 2021 to December 2021, about 800,000 South Sudanese people endured the impacts of “record flooding” within the country. The floods have not only destroyed lands where crops were growing but have also led to the loss of a quarter million “livestock in Jonglei state alone.” The floods also swept away vital supplies such as fishing nets, impacting people relying on fishing in waterways as a means of securing food sources.

Along with the devastating floods, in 2021, the United Nations had to cut its food aid by about 50% due to reduced funding and increased costs of food. This reduction in the amount of food aid from the United Nations alone affects more than three million people.

Extreme Measures and Potential Collapse

To prevent starvation, families are resorting to extreme measures such as “ground-up water lilies” as their only meal of the day. Other people living in hunger have attempted to flee to other towns and states in search of food and shelter.

Further compounding the issue of food insecurity in South Sudan is “government deadlock as the country’s two main political parties try to share power.” Resistance among the political groups to work together is a cause of concern for the head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, who warns of “a collapse in the country’s peace deal” if parties cannot find common ground in the political arena.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

One of the organizations working to help end food insecurity in South Sudan is the WFP. The WFP is currently employing a variety of methods to get food to the millions of South Sudanese people enduring food insecurity. These methods “include airdrops, all-terrain vehicles, river barges and SCOPE registration.”

The WFP utilizes airdrops as a last resort to deliver food to the most “dangerous and inaccessible” locations in South Sudan where safe road travel is not possible. The WFP also utilizes SHERPs, a type of all-terrain vehicle, to deliver food supplies to isolated areas where travel is challenging but still possible. The SHERPs can traverse the most adverse roads, go over obstacles and “float across water” in flooded areas.

The WFP also uses river barges that run along the Nile River to transport food to families who live in areas where there are no roads. Lastly, the WFP uses SCOPE, which is a blockchain service employed to “register and document people who receive food assistance” from the WFP. SCOPE helps workers to track the individuals receiving assistance and record each person’s “nutrition and health status” and determine full recovery and treatment success.

Looking Ahead

Although the situation in South Sudan is dire and experts predict these circumstances will worsen, many organizations are committing to providing as much aid as possible to South Sudanese people facing the devastating impacts of several disasters. By supporting these organizations, even an ordinary individual can make a difference in reducing food insecurity in South Sudan.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in The BahamasAside from a vacation spot, The Bahamas is home to approximately 388,000 people, 12.5% of whom are in poverty. Living in poverty presents secondary challenges such as food insecurity. Food products in The Bahamas come with a noticeable price tag. This is because the island imports nearly 90% of these items. Expensive food prices not only affect the economy and any employment opportunities arising from local agriculture but also alienate those who cannot afford these food prices. As a result, food insecurity in The Bahamas is a significant issue that requires addressing.

Statistics Behind Food Insecurity

According to the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), 21% of people experienced food insecurity in The Bahamas during 2017. This means that almost a quarter of Bahamians experienced a lack of consistent access to adequate food to lead a healthy life, whether through missing meals or being unable to consistently afford quality food products.

This is largely a result of a weak food and agricultural infrastructure and a heavy reliance on imports. Food and agriculture contributed to less than 1% of The Bahamas’ GDP in 2018. This leaves the vulnerable population largely at the mercy of import prices. It also often puts Bahamians in a position where they may not have consistent access to quality food and food products.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated and shed light on the existing challenges in The Bahamas. As a heavily tourism-dependent economy, many people found themselves without work and without a consistent income. This made it increasingly difficult for people to afford the food prices arising from the globally disrupted supply chain.

The Bahamas Feeding Network

The Bahamas Feeding Network uniquely stands out from the crowd when addressing food insecurity. Operating more as a channel, BFN works to coordinate and distribute resources among its member organizations. BFN and its member organizations organized finances, feeding programs, food and non-food supplies, making the fight against food insecurity more effective.

BFN also works to improve communication between different organizations. It is developing a database with times and locations of feeding programs while identifying the most underserved areas in The Bahamas.

In 2013, BFN had 13 member organizations. Now, it has more than 100 feeding centers and programs. Through frequent partnerships with Rotary Clubs, The Bahamas Feeding Network is able to mobilize resources and financial support for organizations fighting food insecurity.

BFN and the Rotary Club donated money to Hands for Hunger, an NGO dedicated to distributing food to disadvantaged people. Thanks to this funding, the organization was able to distribute food vouchers to 100 families in March 2021. BFN also receives support from the Chinese ambassador.

National Food Distribution Task Force

BFN joined forces with the Government of The Bahamas and several NGOs to form the National Food Distribution Task Force (NFDTF). The task force through majority government funding targeted people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each participating NGO delivered food relief to Bahamian residents in the form of food parcels and vouchers. Within the first official month of its formation in June 2020, the task force was able to assist more than 76,000 people.

BFN uniquely approaches the fight against food insecurity in The Bahamas. Mobilizing support and organizing and distributing resources among the many organizations addressing this specific issue creates a grid of cooperation that maximizes the effectiveness of members’ efforts.

– Owen R. Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Poverty and Hunger
In September 2021, the White House introduced two of USAID’s new programs to reduce poverty and hunger. USAID, the U.S.’s international development agency, provides aid to countries to support various sectors such as agriculture, trade and human rights. The latest programs of USAID include the Gender Responsive Agricultural Systems Policy (GRASP) and its latest collaboration with the Eleanor Crook Foundation’s Global Nutrition Financing Alliance. GRASP will provide African female policymakers with a three-and-a-half-year virtual leadership development fellowship to empower women in food systems. USAID’s collaboration with the Eleanor Crook Foundation will mobilize $100 million over five years to reduce COVID-19’s impact on food insecurity and reduce malnutrition worldwide.

GRASP: African Women in Agriculture

According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women account for 43% of the world’s agricultural workforce. Although women make up nearly half of all global agricultural workers, they may not receive equitable opportunities in developing countries. In some regions of Africa, women make up 60% of domestic farm labor. Despite their participation, African women hold limited leadership roles in food systems.

Issues regarding legal ownership of land, fair compensation and access to financial resources hinder African women’s leadership in agriculture. According to Feed the Future, “women tend to own less land, have limited ability to hire labor and face impediments to accessing credit, agricultural extension services and other resources.”

GRASP intends to address gender inequality within African agriculture by empowering female policymakers and inciting change in food systems. With help from USAID, GRASP will provide 100 women with mentorships, networking opportunities and virtual leadership programs targeted to create food-secure communities. By empowering African women in leadership, GRASP strives to develop improved and equitable food systems beneficial to all.

USAID and the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance

USAID has also joined the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance in mobilizing $100 million to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition in low- and middle-income countries. The Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF) and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC0 initially established the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance. The partnership combines public and private sectors to address the pandemic’s effect on malnutrition.

The ECF projects a 50% rise in severe malnutrition due to COVID-19’s economic and existing food programs disruption. USAID’s partnership will help catalyze comprehensive approaches to decrease food insecurity. The alliance will prioritize health and food systems along with food-oriented small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The collaboration seeks to address the financing gap among SMEs, bolster women-led businesses and advance food safety. The alliance also seeks to end malnutrition by 2030.

USAID’s Promising Next Moves to Reduce Poverty and Hunger

USAID’s latest programs will benefit not only those in need but also the rest of the world. GRASP can open new markets by supporting African women in agriculture. The program will also expand leadership and business in African food systems. With accessible development opportunities, African women can create social and economic change to address global poverty and food insecurity.

Additionally, USAID’s alliance with the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance will help reestablish the world’s progress to reduce poverty and hunger. The alliance’s monetary aid will also function as a sustainable investment in global food systems. In helping the world’s poor and hungry through programs like GRASP and the Global Nutrition Financing Alliance, USAID helps the world get back on track.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Ethical food consumption
Many food industries exploit workers and degrade the environment to produce cheap, low-quality food. Ethical food consumption reduces poverty by limiting support for food companies that do not prioritize human rights or environmental sustainability. With the proper knowledge and motivation, people can adopt a wide range of healthy, affordable, ethical and sustainable food practices.

7 Ethical Food Consumption Practices

  1. Try a plant-based diet. In an interview with The Borgen Project, David Julian McClements, a food scientist and professor of food science at the University of Massachusetts, said that plant-based diets can reduce pollution and biodiversity loss, as well as land and water use. Environmental disasters and degradation often hurt impoverished communities because local governments lack the funds and resources to bounce back. Plant-based diets can help impoverished communities by reducing environmental degradationwhich can be complex and costly to address. Plant-based diets can also combat food shortages, water shortages and water contamination. The meat and dairy industries deplete large amounts of water to hydrate animals and clean up waste, contaminating water supplies worldwide. Water contamination can be fatal to impoverished communities lacking proper health care and technology to ensure a clean water supply. Pursuing a plant-based diet reduces support for particular meat and dairy companies that degrade the environment at the cost of human health, especially in impoverished communities.
  2. Shop locally. Buying food from local businesses and farmers’ markets has several social and ecological benefits. When well-managed, small local farms preserve soil health, nearby water sources and plant biodiversity. Small farmers often plant a wide variety of crops compared to large monoculture farms that only grow one or a few crop varieties and ship their produce to grocery stores situated thousands of miles away. Shipping and driving food long distances reduce the freshness and taste of food and contribute to global warming. Local food can also be healthier than imported food because farm-to-table food loses fewer nutrients in the transportation process. Imported food may sit in warehouses, trucks or planes for long periods, during which the food can lose nutrients. Additionally, local, ethical food consumption reduces poverty by supporting small businesses and boosting local economies.
  3. Shop organically. Organic farming involves growing food without using synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Organic farms can reduce pollution, improve water and soil quality, increase biodiversity and limit human and environmental contact with toxic substances. Therefore, consumers help preserve their local environment and human health by purchasing organic food products. Organic farming can be especially beneficial to impoverished communities because of its environmental benefits. Organic farms improve public health and soil fertility, which benefits people, the environment and the economy. Due to socioeconomic and ecological benefits, one can view purchasing organic products as a form of ethical food consumption, which in turn, reduces poverty.
  4. Shop from businesses that pay workers ethical wages. When at the grocery store, taking a minute to glance at the label on a food product before buying it can make a significant difference in ethical food consumption over time. Identifying labels like Fair Trade can help support programs and businesses that pay workers fair wages and ensure safe work conditions. Supporting local food businesses and farms is another way to reduce support for large, corporate brands that exploit workers and degrade the environment. For example, buying products from local farmers’ markets supports small farms that prioritize ethical wages and sustainability more than large corporations. However, in places where farmers’ markets are unavailable, simply reading and researching the labels on food at the grocery store can help support fair wages and environmental sustainability.
  5. Grow a garden. Even if it is just a few plants in a small garden, growing one’s food can be a great alternative to large-scale, exploitative agriculture. Home-grown, ethical food consumption reduces poverty by minimizing support for corporations that do not pay workers fair wages. Sourcing food from a garden can also improve health and benefit the environment. Gardeners know precisely where their food came from, how they grew it and what they used to grow it, leaving no ethical or health-related issues up for question. Maintaining a large garden may be unrealistic for people who have limited free time, but even planting something small, like an avocado plant, can make a difference in the outcome of one’s food consumption over time.
  6. Consume less single-use packaging. Reducing one’s consumption of single-use food packaging benefits both people and the environment. People can reduce the single-use packaging they consume by utilizing reusable bags, containers, straws and more. Zero-waste stores are emerging as more interest circulates zero-waste living. While a zero-waste lifestyle may seem impractical to the average person, any steps in the direction of zero-waste living can make a difference. Reducing one’s use of solid, single-use products factors ethical food consumption because single-use packaging is abundant in the food industry. Ethical food consumption reduces poverty by lessening support for exploitative brands and initiatives, including the plastic industry.
  7. Avoid wasting food. Much like plastic waste, food waste can be detrimental to the environment, especially for impoverished communities. According to the World Wildlife Fund, people could reduce up to 8% of human-made greenhouse gas emissions if they stopped wasting food. Meal planning, purchasing food mindfully, utilizing one’s freezer and making good use of leftovers are all simple ways the average person can reduce the amount of food waste she produces.

By adopting ethical, sustainable food practices in daily life, consumers can make a significant impact in reducing global poverty and food insecurity while conserving the environment.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Secretary Vilsack
The secretary of agriculture in President Barack Obama’s administration, Thomas J. Vilsack, has returned in 2021 to serve in the same position under President Biden. Secretary Vilsack has received recognition for his civil service and efforts to combat global poverty, receiving recognition from the Congressional Hunger Center and the Global Child Nutrition Foundation. He is also “a former member of the board of directors for GenYOUth as well as Feeding America.” At the U.N.’s Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Secretary Vilsack declared that the U.S. would invest $10 billion to ensure global food security over the next five years. Here are five global food security initiatives that Vilsack supports.

5 Global Food Security Initiatives Secretary Vilsack Supports

  1. Feed the Future. Secretary Vilsack supports Feed the Future, the United States’ program to ensure global food security “by boosting inclusive agriculture-led economic growth, resilience and nutrition in countries with great need and opportunity for improvement.” Feed the Future began in 2010 following the 2007-2008 global food crisis. In 2016, Secretary Vilsack supported the Global Food Security Act, a bill ensuring that the efforts of Feed the Future could continue on even after Obama’s end of term. By backing the bill, he expressed his support for sustainable food systems for the world’s impoverished. The Feed the Future program significantly contributes to poverty reduction, reducing poverty by 37% over 10 years in countries like Bangladesh.
  2. McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program. The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program combats global poverty and hunger through the support of the USDA. As secretary of agriculture, Vilsack oversees this program, which supports education and child development in low-income countries, donates “U.S. agricultural commodities” and provides financial assistance for school feeding and community nutrition programs. Overall, the program aims to increase literacy and education to break the cycle of poverty. By overseeing the McGovern-Dole Program, Secretary Vilsack works to ensure that students in need, especially girls, receive the nutrition and support required to thrive in schools.
  3. Food for Peace. Secretary Vilsack also oversaw Food for Peace in the International Affairs Budget during the Obama administration. The Office for Food and Peace began with President Eisenhower’s Food for Peace Act in 1954. Food for Peace aids people in low-income countries and areas of conflict by providing international emergency services, organizing development activities and providing nutritional support. Its development activities shares tools and resources with people in food-insecure areas to end global hunger.
  4. Food is Never Waste Coalition. Secretary Vilsack announced in 2021 that the U.S. would be partnering with the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition emerged from the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” Reducing food waste involves member collaboration to create sustainable food pathways and invest in food loss reduction methods.
  5. School Meals Coalition. While attending the U.N. Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Secretary Vilsack remarked on collaborating with the School Meals Nutrition, Health and Education for Every Child coalition. The coalition strives to provide all children access to nutritious school meals by 2030. In 2021, 150 million students continue to go without school meals worldwide, which sometimes stands as their only meal of the day. The coalition seeks to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing nutrition within education. As a member state of the coalition, the United States will invest in feeding programs to incentivize education globally.

Reducing Global Poverty and Hunger

Secretary Vilsack maintains his efforts to reduce both poverty and hunger through his work in the USDA. By supporting and overseeing various food security initiatives and aid programs, Secretary Vilsack positively impacts the lives of those in need across the world.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

The Food is Never Waste CoalitionThe United Nations Environment Programme’s latest 2021 Food Waste Index Report suggests that the world is in “an epidemic of food wastage.” Currently, the world wastes about 17% of all food available for human consumption. Households contribute 61% to the total food waste while 26% comes from the foodservice industry and the retail industry contributes 13%. These wasted food resources could help to feed the 690 million undernourished global citizens.

A Closer Look at Food Waste

Food loss and waste persist for various reasons. Households may not utilize every food item they purchase and often throw out leftover food. Typically, the average household wastes roughly 74 kilograms of food per person annually. Food waste is responsible for an annual monetary loss of $1 trillion, impacting both farmers and families. The UNEP’s report finds that food waste occurs across all nations, not just low-income nations as is common belief. In fact, “at the farming stage alone,” roughly 1.2 billion tonnes of food is lost. Interestingly, middle and high-income nations account for “58% of global farm-stage food waste.” Considering these statistics, the world is searching for ways to decrease food waste and make food accessible to all.

The World’s Response

Many coalitions and campaigns are emerging to address the food waste crisis. In 2013, the UNEP began the Think Eat Save food waste awareness campaign. Now, UNEP is implementing “Regional Food Waste Working Groups in Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and West Asia.” The groups share ideas and findings concerning food waste within a peer-to-peer network in order to reduce food waste across nations.

USAID is also taking a stand against food waste by investing $60 million over the next five years to research and reduce food waste. In September 2021, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that “the United States joined the global coalition on food loss and waste” — the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” The coalition works to fulfill the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to reduce consumer and retail food waste and loss.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition

The Food is Never Waste Coalition represents a significant step for global action against food waste. The international coalition works to reduce food loss and waste while emphasizing financial and economic sustainability. Members include G7 and G20 groups as well as more than 30 member states in addition to academic groups, NGOs, UN agencies and private sector groups.

Drawing from various sectors, including technology, energy and education, the coalition utilizes a public-private partnership (PPP). A PPP enables the coalition to look across food supply chains and intervene from multiple angles. By collaborating with governments and private businesses, the coalition invests in mutually beneficial sustainable food pathways. In Norway, a PPP strategy helped manufacturers reduce food waste by 15% in a period of just three years.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition will conduct research, share knowledge on food waste reduction methods and invest in food loss reduction. The coalition tracks progress with the UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report. Tracking progress will enable the coalition to maintain goals and establish necessary initiatives. Member states benefit from participating in the coalition. For instance, investing in food waste reduction creates business opportunities for local farmers and women in low-income countries.

The coalition also offers a platform for collaboration between countries by sharing knowledge on food waste research and strategies. Through grassroots efforts, private sector involvement and research, the Food is Never Waste Coalition seeks to improve food pathways. Additionally, the group will encourage food surplus donations among members states to feed those in need.

Alleviating Global Hunger by Reducing Food Waste

Ultimately, halving food waste and loss by 2030 will be a collaborative effort. The coalition embodies the international effort to improve food systems. Resources usually lost at the production or household levels could feed the world’s hungry. By improving global food pathways and encouraging surplus donations, the Food is Never Waste Coalition works to create sustainable and accessible systems with less food waste.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr