This May, agricultural ministers from twenty of the world’s largest economies (G20) gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, to issue an Agricultural Communiqué outlining key actions to advance global food security and sustainable food systems. What topped the list of their priorities? Reducing food loss and waste worldwide.
The G20 is not the only international group to recognize the importance of reducing food loss and waste. High-levels of food loss and waste, which are currently estimated by the Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations (FAO) at about 30 percent of the total global food supply, aggravate concerns about our ability to sustainably nourish the world’s growing population while safeguarding the earth’s natural resources. As a result, reducing food loss and waste has become paramount for the FAO, the U.N. Environmental Program and a long list of international non-governmental organizations and international businesses.
It is also a priority for USDA, as noted by Secretary Tom Vilsack after endorsing the G20 Agricultural Communiqué,
Most important from the U.S. perspective is acknowledging the importance of reducing post-harvest loss and food waste and the positive effect that can have on increasing food security. The issue of food loss and waste is different in developed countries, where the problem is the foods that consumers throw away. In developing countries, the problem is inefficient storage of foods and ingredients before they reach the consumers. We noted with great concern the significant extent of food loss and waste throughout food value chains and the negative consequences for food security, nutrition, use of natural resources and the environment.
One means for stimulating greater action to reduce food loss and waste, both globally and within the United States, is to share best practices. What are governments, organizations and businesses doing to successfully reduce, recover and recycle food loss and waste? G20 countries have agreed to share their best practices on a web-based platform established by the FAO.
In the United States, USDA maintains the U.S. Food Waste Challenge website, which includes an inventory of U.S. Food Waste Challenge participants and their activities to reduce, recover and recycle food loss and waste. With over 4,000 participants in the Challenge, this inventory encompasses a wide variety of practices, from just-in-time ordering to streamlined food donation and on-site composting. USDA’s objective in posting the inventory is to disseminate information about best practices for reducing, recovering and recycling food loss and waste. It is our hope that sharing this information will help stimulate the adoption and development of more of these practices across the entire U.S. food chain – and eventually across the global food chain.