Food, along with drinkable water, is the basis of humankind evolution and survival. Thus, with 7.6 billion people currently living on the planet, projected to increase to 9.8 billion by 2050, we simply cannot afford to waste food. So why is roughly one third of the of the food produced in the world for human consumption (ca. 1.3 billion tonnes) lost or wasted? (FAO). And how does food waste impact on climate change? Awareness of the links between these topics is low, in part because the media have failed to appropriately expose our shameful behavioural habits when it comes to food waste.
Logically, the bigger the population gets, the more food supply is needed. Since the development of agricultural practices (ca. 10.000-12.000 years ago) our food habits and needs have evolved and dramatically increased. In fact, historically, the wealth of a nation has always been measured with how much food surplus that country has been able to secure. Nowadays statistics show that wealthier countries have between 150 and 200% surplus of the food that is actually needed to feed their population.
Last week, the GEAI volunteers attended a showing of the film-documentary “Just Eat It – A Food Waste Story”. This humorous film was produced by Canadian filmmaking couple Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer, who took on a six-month experiment of eating only discarded food. The purpose of this documentary is to expose the environmental crisis being boosted by North America’s (and the western world’s) wasteful eating habits. What this documentary shows is just a tiny fraction of this issue of global-scale magnitude.
It is shocking to witness the unimaginable amount of thrown-away food they find looking into stores’ dumpers and markets – vegetables and fruits being discarded on the mere basis of their aesthetic appearance and other foods that would be perfectly edible according to health and safety standards but are unsellable as they do not “attract” the consumer.
The film highlights how there is a misconception around the term “expiration date” printed on most products. People think that the date refers to the good conditions of the product and after that it is not safe or advisable to eat it anymore. This is not correct as the expiry date is simply an indication of freshness used by producers; a product is perfectly edible after the expiration date.
With field trips and interviews, Grant and Jenny shed light on the dynamics of waste along the whole food supply chain. The documentary contains valuable insights from experts on the matter such as the journalist and author Jonathan Bloom; the award-winning author and Feedback campaign founder Tristam Stuart; and the US National Resource Defence Council’s food/agriculture scientist Dana Ganders.
Food production and distribution processes have enormous implications when it comes to climate change. Tonnes of food wasted go directly into landfills, releasing huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere, greenhouse gas with a far greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide. And this is just at the end of a product’s life cycle. All the food supply chain’s components, such as producers, manufacturers, distribution centres and retailers are jointly responsible in contributing to greenhouse emissions and our changing climate.
A very powerful statement is made in the film: “we are contributing to climate change from our own kitchens”. And it is true. We simply have too much food, and we do not need it so we waste it. Halting food waste is a crucial part of the fight against climate change and something about which each one of us can take responsibility.
The Environmental Protection Agency is implementing a national campaign on this issue – StopFoodWaste.ie
This hilarious docu-film with a tremendously serious message is highly recommended to everyone!