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ugly foodSome countries are creatively battling hunger and food waste by repurposing and rebranding unappealing produce as “ugly food” in Africa. Two projects in Kenya and South Africa demonstrate an interest in reducing food waste to relieve food insecurity.

The Serious Problem with Food Waste

While hunger remains a pressing issue around the world, nearly one-third of all food that is grown or produced is thrown away before it can reach anyone’s dinner table. On the African continent, nonprofits and governments are confronting food waste as a barrier to relieving widespread hunger. These groups focus on improving data collection, promoting sustainable practices and improving food policy to reduce food waste after production.

Adaptability and innovation are key. The Minister for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development of Zimbabwe, Joseph Made, recently stated, “Obviously, new strategies and approaches are needed to reduce food losses and waste, especially due to the rapidly changing nature of agri-food systems and rapid urbanization.”

A New Approach to Reducing Food Waste

One increasingly popular approach to food waste is encouraging the use of unappealing or “ugly” foods. Ugly foods are fruits, vegetables or other food products that farmers, markets and shoppers reject due to discoloration or misshapenness. While perfectly edible and nutritious, these foods are unmarketable, so markets throw them away. In countries such as the U.S. and France, a growing number of businesses are buying ugly produce from farmers and markets and reselling them to shoppers who want to end excessive food waste.

Nonprofit Work Meets Ugly Food in Africa

In many African countries, nonprofit organizations are finding ways to repurpose unappealing foods to reduce food waste and end hunger. In South Africa, for instance, food waste is a huge problem. About 44% of all foods wasted in South Africa are fruits or vegetables. However, Slow Food is a nonprofit changing that. Through an initiative called World Disco Soup Day, Slow Food sponsors festivals in many cities around the world, including Johannesburg, where ugly vegetables are brought in to make an eclectic, community soup. By feeding the community, World Disco Soup Day raises awareness about food waste and teaches people how to use unappealing produce.

Similarly, according to the United Nations, “farms in Kenya reject up to 83 tons of perfectly nutritious vegetables simply because they are considered too ugly and off-putting for consumers.” An initiative sponsored by the World Food Programme is trying to change that by feeding schoolchildren with fruits and vegetables that would have been thrown away. This project in Nairobi, Kenya has been able to provide school lunches for over 2,200 students.

While still new, the ugly food in Africa movement is growing as a means of reducing food waste and hunger. Organizations like Slow Food and the World Food Programme are leading the way by using creative approaches to feeding communities.

– Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Unsplash

food insecurity
Food insecurity is, by definition, “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” For many people around the globe, securing a reliable source of nutritious food is a daily struggle. One of the greatest challenges that faces the world today is ensuring that the world’s growing population has enough food to meet its needs. Below are five facts about food insecurity and possible solutions to the world’s growing food requirements.

Facts About Global Food Insecurity

  1. There is more than enough food produced in the world today to feed all people sufficiently. So why do 815 million people go hungry every day? Food waste is a leading cause of food instability. Approximately one-third of the world’s food production is thrown away or lost due to poor farming practices.
  2. After steadily decreasing for over a decade, global hunger is on the rise. Global hunger affects approximately 11 percent of the global population today. This rise in global hunger has been attributed to a famine which struck a large part of Africa in 2017. It is important to note that many global famines and natural disasters often affect the parts of the world that are hit by food instability the hardest.
  3. Food insecurity has adverse effects on children. Stunted growth, a lack of nourishment leading to underdevelopment in children, is directly caused by food insecurity. Stunting affects nearly 155 million children under the age of five in the world today. This contrasts trends of child and adult obesity in first world countries, which highlights the need for a change in the way people look at food and the practices used when distributing food supplies.
  4. Food insecurity and obesity coexist. In many countries, nutritious healthy foods are often scarce and therefore competition for them is high. Many people turn to easily obtained, calorie-dense foods that lead to obesity. An example of this is farmers turning to high calorie, less nutritious foods to preserve their healthy food crops for profits.
  5. Of all of the countries adversely affected by food insecurity, those most affected are areas involved in violent conflicts. Of the 815 million people experiencing food insecurity, nearly 500 million live in areas affected by conflict. Food supplies are often stolen under military protections or targets for strategic military actions when areas are in war times. This leads to food destruction and constant food insecurity in countries which often need food the most. This can be seen in many countries around the world today such as the Sudan regions of Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Libya and rural countries throughout Asia.

This issue is a growing problem in the world today. One of the largest challenges of today’s generation is figuring out a way to reliably feed the world’s ever-increasing population. Preventing food waste and changing agricultural practices will certainly be the first step to ending food insecurity worldwide. Preventing armed conflicts around the globe and providing nutritious food to the world’s youth will also be on the agenda for those facing food insecurity head-on. Those fighting this major issue have a long road and many challenges ahead in ending food insecurity around the globe.

– Dalton Westfall
Photo: Flickr

A small Caribbean nation with less than 1.4 million people, Trinidad and Tobago faces a serious hunger problem that is afflicting its citizens. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), roughly 100,000 people are undernourished, which accounts for nearly 7.5 percent of the nation’s population. The rest of the Caribbean and Latin America has an average undernourishment rate of only 5.5 percent of the population, which signals how serious hunger in Trinidad and Tobago is.

One of the major reasons for the sheer amount of hunger in the nation is how much food it wastes every year. According to the World Bank, Trinidad and Tobago is the most wasteful country per urban capita in the world.

At a conference launching the nonprofit organization Nourish TT, Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul reported that the Caribbean and Latin America waste a staggering 78 million tons of food annually, which totals 6 percent of global food production, and Trinidad and Tobago is the most wasteful country in the region.

Fletcher-Paul said: “The FAO estimates that in T&T if we were to reduce the food losses at the retail level, we would have enough food to reduce, by 50 percent, the undernourished people in the country.” That only includes food wasted in retail. If waste from all sources could be eliminated, the FAO calculates, all the undernourished people in Trinidad and Tobago could be fed.

With a GDP per capita in the world’s top 60, Trinidad and Tobago has an economic infrastructure more than capable of feeding its citizens, yet more than one in 10 citizens goes hungry. Organizations such as Nourish TT are doing their best to help eliminate food waste and ensure that hungry people receive the nourishment they need.

Similarly, the United Nations Development Programme has implemented the MDG1 program to help eliminate poverty and hunger in Trinidad and Tobago as well as other nations. Programs like MDG1 identify areas of critical need such as improving education, growing non-fossil fuel industries and helping reform healthcare and workers’ rights. With programs such as these in place to eliminate waste, hunger in Trinidad and Tobago looks to be a problem on its way to ending.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

A Prospect of Solutions to Hunger in Hong KongAs a cosmopolitan region with high economic prosperity, hunger in Hong Kong is often overlooked, since there are both short-term food assistance and governmental welfare systems available. However, as one of the most densely populated cities in the world with seven million residents, hunger for a healthy diet exists among low-income families in Hong Kong.

According to a 2014 joint study by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and the Social Work Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, about 70,000 people lack fresh fruit and vegetables for daily consumption, while 40,000 people cannot afford to eat three meals per day.

There is also some argument as to whether Hong Kong is a well-developed or developing region. As indicated by a 2012 census report, Hong Kong’s 15.2 percent poverty rate suggests that around one million people may experience a risk of hunger and related health issues. The population of working poor was estimated at 644,000, while one-third of senior citizens and one-fifth of children live below the poverty line in Hong Kong. In addition, there is a significant gap between the rich and the poor.

The most common ways for low-income families to reduce their living costs include purchasing food on sale in large supermarkets or accepting food donations from charitable organizations. Households that are highly dependent on cheap food have a higher risk of malnutrition and related health and social issues due to the poor quality of food.

In the past few years, several nonprofit organizations have carried out several projects to improve the diets of people living under the poverty line in Hong Kong. The Feeding Hong Kong program both collects and delivers surplus fruits, vegetables and canned foods through multiple charitable organizations and communities. The Food for Thought project focuses on seniors by arranging food donations in the basketball court of Tin Yiu Estate once a week. They provide surplus food donated by market stalls and offer it to anyone who comes, with no means testing required.

While there is still a long march to eliminate the negative impacts of hunger in Hong Kong, many organizations are working to eliminate food waste and get it into the hands of those who need it most.

Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr


A third of all food produced globally is wasted. Up to 40 percent of that food waste is produced by developing countries. Great quantities of food are lost for various reasons such as inadequate harvest techniques, poor post-harvest management and lack of suitable infrastructure and marketing. However, the waste is mainly due to inadequate cooling facilities as well as lack of efficient transportation equipment. Modern technology has allowed solutions to fix these problems and decrease the amount of food being wasted. Listed below are five ways technology reduces food waste in developing countries.

5 Ways Technology Reduces Food Waste in Developing Countries

  1. The lack of access to cold chain technology is one of the reasons food waste is abundant in tropical areas. For example, even though India is the top leading producer of bananas, it only holds 0.3 percent of the world’s market. Some of this gap can be attributed to lack of refrigeration and reliable energy sources. By providing a better system of refrigeration, the food loss would be cut by 25 percent.
  2. Improving packaging to maintain freshness of products during transportation and decreasing the number of insects found would also greatly reduce food waste. An example of such technology is the Modified Atmosphere Packaging. This technology increases freshness by substituting the atmosphere within the packaging system with a protective gas mix, usually consisting of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
  3. Technologies have been created to convert food waste into renewable sources of energy. This is done through the use of anaerobic digesters that break down the waste into large amounts of carbon which can then be converted into biogases or organic fertilizers. This process preserves the nutrients from the food and recycles the nutrients back into the farming system as a clean energy source.
  4. Increasing communication during the transport chain increases overall product awareness. For example, Israel has developed the Xsense system, which uses wireless sensors to monitor storage conditions second by second. The technology is able to identify problems in the transportation process and allows for supply-chain management to improve any problems sensed.
  5. Microfinancing initiatives that invest in small-scale farmers can greatly alleviate the waste load. Through education of how food waste occurs and what is being done to prevent it, small farmers can gain a better grasp on the solutions being implemented. Educated farmers can greatly benefit from increased access to waste-reducing technology and equipment.

There are many ways technology reduces food waste in developing countries. Implementing such technologies can not only reduce waste but give developing countries an opportunity to flourish and thrive.

Taylor Elgarten

Photo: Flickr

Simple Ways to Reduce Waste and Stop Climate Change
Simple ways to reduce waste can also help those that are forced even deeper into poverty by climate change.

Increasing levels of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide raise temperatures on Earth and cause myriad problems such as rising sea levels, melting snow and ice, extreme heat, fires, drought, floods and extreme storms.

These hazards have displaced 21.5 million people per year since 2008. Scientists predict that the amount of people displaced due to climate change will increase in the future.

Regions with large populations that are at high risk for natural hazards and lack the resources to adequately prepare for natural disasters are at the highest risk for displacement. Asia and Pacific Island nations are most at risk for displacement.

Although most people aren’t scientists trained to research methods to stop climate change, there are simple ways to reduce waste in an effort to slow the effects of climate change. Here are some everyday examples:

  1. Save plastic bags for reuse.
    Each year Americans use 100 billion plastic shopping bags. It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce all these bags. This comes at a great cost to the environment, with emissions from petroleum production polluting the air and water.
  2. Cut out other plastic products.
    There is an area in the Pacific Ocean twice the size of Texas full of plastic waste. Pack your lunch and pour drinks in reusable containers, and be sure to recycle plastic bottles. Women can try a menstrual cup instead of other feminine hygiene products that have plastic wrappers or applicators.
  3. Buy second-hand.
    Shop thrift stores for items such as clothing, housewares, holiday decorations and more and buy used books and music rather than new. All these simple ways to reduce waste add up!
  4. Use public transport.
    Take the bus, streetcar or subway instead of driving. Or, get fit by riding your bike or walking.
  5. Carpool with others or combine trips.
    For example, do grocery shopping after work before going home rather than making separate trips. Sites like
    Zimride can help connect with others from the same company or university looking to carpool.
  6. Grow food, buy local and cut down on wasted food.
    Agriculture emits more greenhouse gasses than transportation. As the increasing global population increases the demand for food, experts predict there will be a global food shortage by 2050 because there is not enough land or water to fulfill this demand. Help reduce this demand by planting a small garden. Homegrown tomatoes, lettuce, berries and herbs are easy for beginners. Food that isn’t homegrown should be bought in season and from local farmers, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Vegan diets are more eco-friendly because food produced on farms can be consumed directly by humans rather than being used as animal feed. A vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, 30 square feet of forested land and 45 pounds of grain, according to Esquire Middle East.
    If it’s impossible to go vegetarian or vegan, at least reduce the amount of meat and other animal products in your diet. Try having a Meatless Monday like American families during World War I and II who rationed their consumption for the war effort.

Though they may seem small, simple ways to reduce waste help those displaced by climate change if everyone does their part to help.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Robin Food App Cuts Down on Food Waste and Helps the Poor
Teens in Malaysia won the first Sime Darby’s Young Innovator’s Challenge with the Robin Food App, which connects businesses ready to donate surplus food to local food banks.

The Robin Food App is innovative because it presents a simple solution to two problems Malaysia and many other countries face: hunger and food waste.

Each day Malaysians produce 3,000 metric tons of avoidable food waste—enough food to feed 2.2 million people. About four percent of Malaysians live below the poverty line.

Cutting down on the amount of food wasted worldwide is an essential step to stopping climate change. Agriculture produces more greenhouse gasses than emissions from all cars, trains and airplanes combined.

Grocery stores, hotels, restaurants and other businesses can post on the Robin Food app when they have surplus food. Food banks are then notified of the surplus food in real time, pick up the food and distribute the food to those in need. The app also automatically generates statistics so that users can gain a sense of the impact their donations make.

Robin Food is available both as a web and smartphone app. The mobile app can even be accessed offline in areas that do not have internet access.

The Sime Darby Young Innovator’s Challenge is a new contest that challenges children aged 13-16 to think of a problem and come up with a solution that makes the world a better place. Applicants have the opportunity to participate in regional and national innovation workshops to gain the skills to develop their ideas further. The theme for this year’s contest was tackling poverty.

Sime Darby is a Malaysia-based multinational business conglomeration that has sectors in the plantation, industrial, property, motor and logistics sectors. The corporation is dedicated to bettering society while minimizing the impact on the environment and delivering sustainable development to all stakeholders.

Sime Darby will continue to challenge teens to generate innovative solutions to tackle major issues the world faces with creative solutions. The 2017 Young Innovators Challenge will begin in January. As the Robin Food app saves surplus food and feeds hungry Malaysians, many are excited to see which problems Malaysian teens will solve next.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Reducing Food Loss
A simple invention aims to revolutionize the preservation of perishable goods, thereby reducing food loss.

The invention in question is known as FreshPaper, a small sheet of biodegradable material infused with a special mixture of botanical extracts that claims to preserve food freshness. Its inventor? Then 16-year-old Kavita Shukla, who was inspired to tackle the problem of food waste in a unique way.

It began with Shukla trying her grandmother’s home remedy for an upset stomach: a mixture of plant extracts, botanicals and spices. Upon the remedy’s success, Shukla was inspired to test it further, thus discovering its antimicrobial properties.

Several years of research later, she was able to receive a patent for the mixture, now known as Fenugreen. At 27, Shukla joined forces with a friend to launch the product in Cambridge.

Food waste is a big problem. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N., one-third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is wasted annually. This waste typically happens at the consumer end of the production process. “Food loss” occurs earlier on during production, post-harvest and processing.

Developing countries in particular struggle with food loss, since they often lack the industrialization necessary to preserve food long enough to reach consumers. The National Geographic states that India loses up to 40 percent of its fruits and vegetables in this manner.

There is no one solution to food waste or loss. Instead, it is important to take action at multiple steps in the food making process. In developing countries, aid organizations are providing for better storage facilities for farmers, preventing them from losing excessive amounts of crops during transit.

Since 1997, the FAO has donated metal silos to more than 15 countries by training local craftsmen in their construction, use and delivery to farmers. In one study, 96 percent of the beneficiary farmers in Bolivia responded that the silos in question improved food security by reducing the amount of food lost post-harvest and maintaining grain quality.

Shukla is currently working to make FreshPaper available to food-banks and to farmers in developing countries. She hopes that her invention can have a big impact in reducing food loss.

Sabrina Santos
Photo: Flickr

Food Waste in Italy
Each year, about one-third of the food produced worldwide, 1.3 billion tons, is lost or wasted — enough to feed the one billion people who are malnourished and two billion more. Including food waste in Italy and France, the food wasted in Europe alone could provide for 200 million people.

“The problem is simple — we have food going to waste and poor people who are going hungry,” French politician Arash Derambarsh said to the Independent.

France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from disposing of unsold foods and require them to instead donate the products to charities and food banks. The Italian Parliament has become the second to introduce food waste reform.

In contrast to its French counterparts, however, Italy’s bill rewards supermarkets for helping reduce food waste instead of punishing them for not doing their part.

Current law requires stores to declare each donation five days in advance, preventing supermarkets from giving away excess. Once the new bill becomes law, markets will only need to submit a document detailing what was given at the end of the month. The donations will go to public authorities and non-profit organizations.

The new legislation also allows markets to donate mislabeled food products if the expiration date and allergy information are properly indicated. A food education program for schools, a national awareness campaign and a take-out system for restaurants will follow within the next three years.

According to La Reppublica, 43 percent of food waste in Italy happens at the consumer’s home. Each person wastes an average of 76 kilograms per year, costing the country $18 million. Maruzio Martina, the Italian agriculture minister, said he hopes to increase Italy’s food recovery from 550 million tons to 1 billion.

Many hope the bill will not only reduce food waste in Italy but also benefit the 6 million Italians living in poverty who rely on donations to survive.

The waste-bill, brainchild of Italian member of parliament Maria Chiara Gadda, has received bipartisan support, and was passed in the Senate on August 2.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr

World HungerThe plight of world hunger is nothing new. On average, one in eight individuals go hungry every day. Currently, about 795 million people suffer from chronic hunger.

This is especially critical in developing countries. There, food productivity and sustainability are just one amongst a plethora of other issues, including overpopulation, civil conflict and lack of education.

However, while the effects of hunger are not limited by race, religion or country, the answer to ending the world’s food shortage problem lies in many, perhaps unexpected places.

Women’s Empowerment

For instance, one such solution can be found in empowering women. Of the 600 million small farmers, herders and food providers in the world, half are women. However, this large fraction of food providers is hindered from producing adequate quotas due to cultural and gender boundaries.

Typically, women have less access to education, ownership of land or livestock. They also receive less credit than their male counterparts. As a result, half of the world’s food providers are unable or not producing nearly enough to sustain themselves, let alone the world’s population.

If these restrictions on female agriculturists decreased, however, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) the number of hungry people in the world would drop 17%.

Education

Another solution to ending world hunger revolves around education. Countries in Africa and South America have fertile land, but with ignorant farmers, food production remains low. These uneducated agriculturists practice outdated farming techniques and in turn reap poor results.

But programs such as Food for Training projects focus on educating food providers in developing nations. They can dramatically improve food production levels and encourage long term self-sustainability at very little cost.

Moreover, school meal projects also reduce hunger amongst children, who most heavily feel the effects of food shortages. In turn, the free or reduced meals schools provide encourage families to send their children to school, which supports education.

Reducing Food Waste

Lastly, a crucial part of reducing and eventually ending world hunger lies in ending global food waste. If the world were to reduce its food waste, a third of the world’s entire food supply would be saved, which is enough to feed 3 billion people.

Ultimately, this would result in a food surplus that could sustain entire countries. However, food recycling projects and campaigns such as Feedback, which focuses on saving leftover produce and creating nutritious meals from marketable food scraps, help reduce hunger. This provides thousands of people around the world with free, nutritious meals.

World hunger has reduced significantly since the 1990s; however, it has since leveled in 2010. Strategies such as food waste reduction campaigns, education and discouraging gender inequality can make significant dents in the fight to end this battle.

Jenna Salisbury

Photo: Pixabay