Solving Hunger in South Korea, From Its Own Borders to the International CommunitySouth Korea remains one of the most technologically and economically developed countries. Standing as the number one most educated country and the 14th largest economy, South Korea has a small rate of undernourishment and relatively low levels of poverty. The poverty rate in South Korea is 13% for the working-age population and 44% for the elderly, ages 66 and older. Additionally, the rate of hunger in South Korea is relatively low. As of 2019, South Korea ranks 29 on the Global Food Security Index and only 2.5% of South Korea is undernourished. Stunting in South Korea, which refers to a child who is too short for their age as a result of chronic malnutrition, is 3%. These low rates of undernourishment and stunting are due to the high presence and quality of South Korea’s Food Safety Net Programs.

Innovate Ways to Battling Hunger

South Korea has implemented excellent programs and initiatives for poverty and hunger-reduction. The South Korean government worked to alleviate hunger among the elderly by offering a retirement program where elderly individuals receive about $200 a month. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in South Korea also established a food safety management system to provide safer and healthier food. Foods that are made domestically go through a three-step process of manufacturing, distribution and consumption.

During the manufacturing stage, the business operator must submit a food and item report. Inspections are then conducted to ensure the safety of the products. In the distribution stage, food products are collected and inspected further to strengthen the safety of food distribution. The food is also traced through a system so that all distribution routes are tracked. Lastly, the program ensures that in the consumption stage, all false or over-exaggerated advertisements are monitored thoroughly and food standards are met. This three-step program is essential to ensure the food safety and nutritional needs are met.

Addressing Food Waste and Building Rice Self-Sufficiency

Today, the world produces enough food to sustain every single individual, but almost a third of all food produced every year never reaches consumption due to excessive food waste. To tackle this problem and maximize the efficiency of food distribution, South Korea has implemented food waste programs that recycle more than 95% of its food waste. Leftover food in major cities like Seoul is collected from residences, hotels and restaurants and deposited in sorting facilities. The food is then crushed and dried and used as fertilizer, animal feed and even used for generating electricity. This program has reduced food waste in districts by 30% and in restaurants by 40%.

One of the biggest contributions to hunger reduction in South Korea is the system of rice self-sufficiency, where rice consumption became a matter of “national duty.” In the late 1970s, South Korea grew self-sufficient in rice for the first time. Local consumers were prompted to buy local Korean produce through food campaigns that insisted on the consumption of rice as an important national responsibility. As a result of local rice production and consumption, the average rural income grew higher than the average urban income and South Korea became self-sufficient in its most essential food commodity: rice. This rice self-sufficiency contributed tremendously to food security in South Korea.

Helping Others

South Korea has come a long way since the Japanese colonization of Korea and the Korean War. The country has found innovative ways to strengthen its economy, reduce its poverty and establish food security and food safety net programs. These innovative programs and the resulting low rates of hunger have inspired the international community to take note of South Korea’s achievements and follow its lead. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), for instance, has joined forces with South Korea to encourage and strengthen its Zero-Hunger efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korea has been working with FAO to help drought-stricken farmers in Afghanistan as well as provide training in rice production for farming communities in West Africa. In June of 2019, South Korea also responded to the severe food shortages afflicting 40% of North Korea by distributing $8 million in food aid to North Korea.

Today, the vast influence that South Korea has on the international community is clear. Not only did they create new critical ways to solve important issues such as poverty, hunger and food waste in their own country, but they also shared these strategies with other countries. South Korea continues to provide aid and assistance to countries like Afghanistan and communities in West Africa while ensuring that hunger in South Korea is managed.

—Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

reducing food waste
Reducing food waste could potentially prevent climate change and help end global poverty. In the first study of its kind, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculated that the world’s population wastes 1.3 billion tons of food per year. That food waste also results in 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.

Food waste also costs the world $750 billion annually. The United States alone wastes $161 billion a year. Another study calculated that $265 billion per year would end world poverty and hunger by 2030.

The FAO’s study, “Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources,” focuses specifically on the environmental impacts of wasting food. A 54 percent majority of this waste occurs during the production phase, and developing nations struggle most during this part.

On the other hand, 46 percent of food waste occurs during the distribution and consumption of those products. Developed countries waste more during the consumption phase; they are responsible for 31 to 39 percent of total food waste.

Reducing food waste requires positive change in all phases of the food production and consumption chain. The FAO also suggested teaching more environmentally friendly farming practices and better analysis of the balance between supply and demand. As a result, the entire food production process would be more efficient and profitable during both phases.

Not only does reducing food waste affect the economy and environment, but it also has a positive social impact. If consumers in developed countries reduced their food waste, then farmers in developing nations would have more land and other resources. These farmers could use the extra water and space to grow the foodstuffs their countries (and other developing nations) need.

Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FAO provide toolkits for reducing food waste. The EPA’s toolkit also provides a guide full of information specifically about the U.S. It also contains an implementation plan for starting a local advocacy movement. Here are just a few ways individuals can help reduce food waste:

  1. Plan before shopping. Checking the fridge and pantry before shopping can prevent overbuying.
  2. Buy the ugly fruits and vegetables. They are still perfectly good to eat.
  3. Keep track of “Sell By” and “Use Before” dates. Sometimes, food stays good much longer than a sell by date. In addition, make sure to eat foods that are nearing those use before dates.
  4. Be creative. If they are a little wilted or wrinkled, those foods are still great for smoothies, soups, pies, etc.
  5. Eat smart and share. Controlling portion sizes when cooking or ordering food while out will reduce food waste. If there are extras or leftovers, sharing with family and friends can also help.
  6. Freeze food. This will keep it fresh until a much later date.
  7. Compost. Buying a kitchen composter or recycling waste in a garden will keep food out of landfills.
  8. Donate. Donating untouched food to homeless shelters or others in need will be doubly beneficial. Instead of becoming waste, it will go to the people who desperately need it.

Food waste clearly has a widespread impact in all avenues of human life. Better communication and balance between farmers and distributors would save both money and the environment. More thoughtful purchasing and consumption at the individual level would also contribute. If the world can cooperate and reduce food waste, then there is greater hope for the end of environmental destruction and global poverty.

Taylor Hazan

Photo: Pixabay

hunger in Brazil

Every day, 66 million people face hunger in Brazil, yet the country annually wastes 15 million tons of food.

Thirty percent of agricultural products are never consumed. In response, many organizations have mobilized to help Brazil lose its infamous position as the third biggest food-wasting country, and provide relief to the 66 million suffering food insecurity.

Invisible Food Bill in São Paulo

Currently, food products in Brazil have unnecessarily short expiration dates, causing lots of good food to be thrown away. The Invisible Food Bill was proposed by Daniela Leite, Flávia Vendramin and Sergio Ignacio.

The Huffington Post explains the simple goal: “if implemented (the law) would require companies to donate food products that may have lost their commercial value, but are still suitable for consumption.” The trio hope to sell the donated items in a food truck and use the profits to raise awareness about food waste while the rest will go to charities to reduce hunger in Brazil.

U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Network

The FAO was concerned by Brazil’s high food waste, and they have been combating the problem with a network of both public and private organizations. An FAO committee specialist stated that the production chain and infrastructure are to blame. Improved agriculture, shipping and storage practices would lower the 30% agricultural waste. This would save money for producers and lower prices for consumers. Unfortunately, food donation in Brazil is difficult because donors are legally accountable for recipients’ potential illnesses. A “Good Samaritan Law” is currently making its way through the legal system which would protect donors. The U.N. hopes to upgrade the processes to save money for everyone and simplify food donation.

Olympic Leftovers Feeding Hungry People in Rio

Celebrity Chefs David Hertz and Massimo Bottura decided to put the leftovers from Olympic athlete’s meals to good use. The estimated 12 tons of food will be given to people in favelas, or low-income neighborhoods. Both chefs have experience with programs like this; Bottura founded an organization, Food for the Soul, that creates community projects similar to the Olympic program. While Hertz started Gastromotiva, which provides vocational and cooking training to empower low-income people. Volunteers have re-purposed a vacant store into a feeding station that will become a community center with cooking classes after the games. These temporary soup kitchens transformed what would have been waste to 100 hot meals a day.

These organizations are attempting to reroute food from landfills to people. Officials hope the combined effort of the U.N. and other organizations will improve agricultural production and encourage donations with bills like the Good Samaritan Law and Invisible Food Bill.

Jeanette I. Burke


Reducing Food Waste
When the topic of world hunger comes up, the natural response might be to suggest that more food be produced to feed those in need. Before investing resources in creating more food, recycling or reducing food waste should be considered as an effective solution to world hunger.

Grocery stores waste more than 30 percent of food, which equals about $160 billion in America, according to author Tristram Stuart. That amount of wasted food would be enough to feed the 800 million people internationally who live in hunger.

A majority of food that gets thrown out is still edible. Supermarkets often reject food for cosmetic reasons like vegetables looking crooked or blemished.

Stuart also argues that grocery stores are marketed as having excess food. This leads to consumers buying too much food and throwing out their excess, which contributes to the waste crisis.

Certain organizations around the world recognized this problem and actively work to reduce food waste and world hunger. Equoevento is a non-profit based in Rome that donates leftover food from events to charities.

The Huffington Post reports that Equoevento distributed 200,000 meals from food collected at approximately 400 events.

Another organization in Kenya, called Enviu, takes food that is rejected for cosmetic purposes and distributes them to schools that need extra meals.

In addition to feeding those in need, this practice demonstrates economic efficiency as farmers will not lose out as much on their produce getting wasted.

Methods for saving food even made an appearance at the Olympics this year. Refetto-Rio is an initiative, much like Equoevento, takes wasted food from the Olympic Village and converts it to meals for those in need.

Not all of us have the capacity to start organizations that reduce large-scale food waste, but we can attempt to reduce our own waste. By wasting food at home people actually harm the world’s hungry.

Consumers increase the demand for food by purchasing excess food that is not eaten. This causes global food prices to rise and makes food less affordable for others.

Paying attention to the food we waste and ensuring we only buy what we need is a start. There are a number of smartphone apps available, such as LeanPath, that show people the monetary cost of the food they waste.

Giving people a concrete representation of their waste can motivate them to be more efficient with their food and aid efforts in diverting unused food to those in need.

Technological innovations for food growth and quality should be encouraged; however, reducing food waste, on a large-scale and at a household level, is a more immediate solution that addresses food waste and world hunger.

Edmond Kim

Photo: Pixabay

refrigeration technologyRefrigerators. Everyone has one. Often filled with smelly leftovers and the occasional moldy cheese, they are a staple of the American way of life. However, refrigeration is not a luxury that everyone enjoys.

Without refrigeration technology, food is at constant risk of spoiling. Globally, tons upon tons of food is lost each year, and a lack of refrigeration plays a part in this. Some sources state that one-third of food produced today will end up being lost for one reason or another. Others say that around 40 percent of food is lost before it reaches markets. Either way, the number stands around 1.3 billion tons a year.

Putting these statistics into monetary form might give even more perspective and clarity. Around $1 trillion worth of food is lost each year around the world. In India alone, $6.8 billion worth of fruits and vegetables are lost a year.

Before continuing, it is important to recognize the distinction between food waste and food loss: “Food loss refers to the decrease in edible food mass at the production, post-harvest and processing stages of the food chain, mostly in developing countries. Food waste refers to the discard of edible foods at the retail and consumer levels, mostly in developed countries.” Food loss is a problem common to the developing world.

A lack of any way to keep fruits and produce cool is usually the reason for their loss, although it should be acknowledged that simply throwing extra food out is also a problem, albeit in more developed countries. A deficit in access to cold chain technology – refrigeration for goods en route to their final destinations – has a major role in food loss. The food that does not spoil on its way to its destination faces the challenge of finding refrigeration once it is delivered as well.

A new piece of refrigeration technology hopes to solve these food loss problems. Called Evaptainers, they are the solution to the fact that 45 percent of the produce grown in Africa is lost before it reaches consumers. The idea began in a class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where students were challenged to come up with something that would change lives. The Evaptainer was the result.

The Evaptainer is a low-cost, mobile, electricity-free cooling unit that can be used to either improve the cold chain or refrigerate fruits, vegetables or meat in one place. Evaptainers use evaporative cooling instead of vapor-compression, which is more energy-intensive, to keep the cost and energy use low.

How does the Evaptainer work? Everyone has experienced evaporative cooling at some point: the sensation of a breeze cooling skin after swimming is essentially what it is in action. The device itself has two parts: an inner area where goods are kept, and a layer of sand in between the produce and the outer wall of the container. When water that has been added to the sand evaporates, it lowers the temperature of the food chamber by up to 20 degrees centigrade.

Refrigeration has always been a struggle in the developing world. Often, there is a lack of electricity to power cooling units, and so food ends up being lost. Once Evaptainers go into production for commercial use, it will be interesting to see the impact they make in the developing world. Keep an eye out for this one in the future.

Gregory Baker

Sources: FAO, UN Non-Governmental Liaison Services , Evaptainers, The Guardian
Photo: The Daily Banter

Each year, industrialized countries like the U.S. waste just about as much food as the total net amount of food that is produced in sub-Saharan Africa. That is 222 million tons wasted in comparison to 230 million produced.

In 2009, the amount of food wasted was equal to more than 50 percent of cereal crops produced globally, which is 2.3 billion tons of food.

The United States Department of Agriculture began its U.S. Food Waste Challenge in June of 2013. Along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, their goal was to acquire 1,000 supporters by 2020.

Some of the goals are to minimize food wasted in school meal programs, find ways to reuse food that is rejected from the market due to “un-sellability”, estimate the amount of food waste in the U.S. each year, and discover new technologies that decrease that amount.

The initiative is much needed, considering that the average American consumer throws away ten times the quantity of food that someone in Southeast Asia does. That number has grown by 50 percent since the 1970s.

On average, American wastes about 40 percent of all food. Waste takes place on farms, in grocery stores, in homes, and in landfills. That is equivalent to 20 pounds per person, $165 billion, and one fourth of all freshwater per year.

Studies show that if America reduced food waste by just 15 percent, the amount of food saved could feed more than 25 million people per year.

Fresh water is a precious resource all over the world, and 80 percent of it is used to produce food in the U.S. Food production also uses half of the country’s land and ten percent of the nation’s total energy budget.

Food that decays in landfills now makes up nearly 25 percent of total U.S. methane emissions.

Yolanda Soto is looking to dramatically reduce the amount of food wasted in America by saving 35-40 million pounds of produce every year. She does this by collecting food rejected at the U.S.- Mexican border and shipping it to needy families in the U.S. and Mexico.

More than 50 percent of food grown in Mexico and imported to the U.S. is inspected and rejected at the border near Nogales, Arizona. Each trailer carries about $70,000 worth of food.

Soto started Borderlands Food Bank in the 1990s after being shocked at how much edible produce is tossed despite the high percentage of people plagued by hunger.

The organization’s focus is “to provide fresh, nutritious produce to people in need, advocate for the hungry, and help eradicate malnutrition and hunger.”

Beginning with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, imported fruits and vegetables undergo inspection by around 40 different government agencies. Produce is taken out of commerce if it does not meet the USDA’s standards for quality and size.

“It’s perfectly good,” says Soto about the produce she redistributes, “but because it had some scarring, they couldn’t sell it. Who’s going to buy it?”

The truth is, American’s have this idea that in order to taste good, food has to look perfect. Anything less than perfect is rejected.

– Lillian Sickler


Sources: NPR, The Huffington Post Border Lands Food Bank National Resources Defense Council World Food Day U.S. Environmental Protection Agency USDA
Photo: Takepart

On May 28 of this year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization signed an agreement with the World Union of Wholesale Markets designed to reduce food waste and improve food security for the world’s urban poor.

According to the FAO, about one third of food produced for human consumption each year is lost or wasted. It estimates that over 40% of root crops, fruits and vegetables are lost or wasted, along with 35% of fish, 30% of cereals and 20% of meat and dairy products. This figure tallies up to an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food with an economic value of $1 trillion. These losses are quickly becoming concentrated in cities, where over half of the world’s population lives. Moreover, this figure will increase by 2050, as two-thirds of the people on earth are expected to live in cities.

Getting food to the urban poor is a novel challenge. Many low-income families live in “food deserts,” areas where there is no easy access to food, much less fresh food.

Eugenia Serova, head of the FAO’s Agro-Industry Division, said in a press release, “more efficient wholesale markets, and overall urban market outlets, can result in more affordable means to reach the city poor with healthy food.”

According to Ms. Serova, this new agreement is as much about learning how to deal with the future as it is about handling the challenges of the present: “If close to 90 percent of the expected increase in the global urban population in the next two decades will take place in cities in Africa and Asia, it makes much sense to build solid knowledge on how to strengthen urban market systems.”

WUWM has agreed to work with the FAO to tackle these challenges with an eye toward sustainability and inclusiveness.

Donald Darnall, a member of the board of directors of WUWM, said, “Some 60 percent of wholesale markets we’ve surveyed said managing food waste was their number-one challenge for the next five years . . . Our markets are embracing ‘good practices’ to reduce waste and we see this as an opportunity to develop improved waste management strategies and share solutions.”

The two agencies hope to develop a set of better practices for wholesale markets in urban settings. The goal is a more efficient flow of information and a dramatic reduction in food waste and loss. The partnership also hopes to improve producers’ access to markets, make food handling safer and more consistent and eliminate urban food deserts.

WUWM is connected to wholesale marketers in 43 countries, giving it access to an enormous amount of data. With this much data and expertise at their disposal, the FAO and WUWM are well on their way to finding new methods of improving efficiency, ensuring better quality of produce and ultimately cutting waste.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: UN News Centre, World Union of Wholesale Markets Seattle Pi Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN
Photo: Flickr

American Chemical Society Advocates For Reduced Food Waste
Did you know that the average American wastes almost 20 pounds of food a month? How about that 4 out of every 10 pounds of food produced in the United States goes to waste? These surprising facts – gleaned from recent scientific research calling for reduced food waste – was discussed at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society last week in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The topic of reduced food waste, along with various other subjects highlighting specific energy and sustainability challenges was raised in order to meet the needs of an estimated worldwide population of nine billion by 2050. As the global population increases and demands greater food quality – via development and increased standards of living – new and creative methods of food security must be implemented in order to prevent future agricultural and energy constraints. John Floros, dean of the College of Agriculture at Kansas State remarked that “We will need another ‘Green Revolution‘ to feed the world by 2050, That will mean scientific innovations, such as new strains of the big three grains — rice, wheat and corn — adapted for a changing climate and other conditions. It also will require action to reduce a terrible waste of food that gets too little attention.”

The emergence of the Chinese middle class – roughly the size of the entire US population – was a popular topic, including their greater demand for energy and evolving dietary tastes predicted to strain worldwide energy and food resources, necessitating increased sustainability and seed development. By taking the first steps in raising awareness of issues such as reduced food waste, scientists are optimistic about meeting future food security challenges through greater collaboration and agricultural research. John Floros further remarked that “Consumers, industry, universities and governments all need to pitch in. The first step is more awareness of these issues and the need for action on multiple levels of society.”

Brian Turner

Source: Science Daily
Photo: Salon