Monday, May 6, 2013

More on Food waste

Sorry for being quiet on this blog lately. I hope you are following the Scrap Lunch project blog in the meantime. Finally on Saturday we had our event and it turned out well, I think we all enjoyed it the day! Even if my team was really really busy. Someone was suggesting we should do one every month but I don't think they realize how much work was but behind, but perhaps in smaller scale and without workshops we could do it again.In the same course we are supposed to write an article and publish it somewhere on a topic related to our project. So here we go;

Food Security: an ethical issue?

There are many definitions of food security but one of the most recurrent ones is from the World Food Summit in 1996: “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life” (www, WHO, 2013). World Health Organization, WHO, expresses on their website that food security is a complex sustainable development issue and there are several opinions on whether or not we need to increase the food production in the future to feed a growing population.

The fact is that the food waste in the US supply chain alone could contribute to satisfying the hunger of each and every one of the nearly one billion starving people in world (Stuart, 2009). Therefore, it is about time that we do something about the food waste issue. Every year about one third of edible food produced in the world is wasted, that is about 1.3 billion ton per year (Gustavsson et al. 2011, 4). While food is wasted in all stages of the supply chain, in developing countries it is mostly in the production stage. In developed countries edible food is also thrown away in significant quantities in later stages of the supply chain, including households.

So is the problem merely a problem of distribution and access and, if so, whose responsibility is it to fix it? Western society has had a tendency to blame structural and systemic problems on someone or somewhere else rather than actually fixing the structural problems in the system (Meadows, 2008, 4). For example, the food issue was reduced to a production problem thus “solved” by increasing food production. However, the hunger problem persists (Ibid.) while we continue to waste food in large quantities. The reason for this is that systems are difficult to comprehend and it is even harder to know where to intervene in a system to make changes that will solve the structural problem (Meadows, 1999). Additionally, context and social norms are affecting our behavior (Holmes et al. 2011). Customers nowadays want, for example, yellow or even green bananas which mean the brown ones are thrown away even if there is nothing wrong with them (Strid et al. 2013, 6).

A recent project at the Swedish Agricultural University has looked closer at how to lessen the food waste in grocery stores in Sweden (Strid et al.2013). The conclusions are pointing at two ways where there is room for improvement. The first way is to improve the flow of products through the store, by buying less or storing it right. It makes economic sense for stores not to buy more than what they sell as that is a lost investment. On the other hand they don’t want to show the customers empty shelves. The second way is to take good care of the edible waste that appears by making use of it by, for example, selling it cheap to catering firms or even freezing it and selling it cheaper later on. In other words, they have identified points where the system could work better.

It appears that food security could at least to some extent be solved by simple waste reduction. It should make economic sense both to companies and households not to waste resources. The distribution problem is more difficult to solve but probably not impossible. There is also room for more effective production methods in developing countries so food is not wasted in this stage.

Therefore we need more of these new ideas all through the food supply chain to keep developing the food systems towards a sustainable future. By simultaneously improving the food literacy that the younger generation seems to have lost we could effectively improve how the Western world values food. By valuing food higher, food waste would naturally become something to avoid in the whole food chain.


Gustavsson Jenny, Cederberg Christel and Sonesson Ulf, 2011, Global Food losses and Food  Waste, FAO, Rome

Holmes Tim, Blackmore Elena, Hawkins Richard, Wakeford Tom, 2011, The Common Cause Handbook, Public Interest Research Centre, UK

Meadows, 1999, Leverage Points-Places to intervene in a system, The sustainability institute

Meadows, 2008, Introduction from Thinking in Systems, Earthscan

Strid Ingrid, Eriksson Mattias, Lagerberg Fogelberg Charlotte and Hernant Mikael, 2013, Minskat matsvinn från livsmedelsbutiker-sammanfattning av ett forskningsprojekt kring matsvinn, Swedish Agricultural University [retrieved from:]

Stuart Tristram, 2009, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, Penguin, UK


WHO, World Health Organization,
1)      Food Security, , retrieved 2.5.2013

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