I often hear people saying that there are not enough resources for everyone on the planet, arguing that poverty and inequality are a natural result of scarcity (the idea there’s not enough resources to go around).
But these people fail to consider one extremely important yet rarely-discussed issue:
Food wastage is a HUGE problem in the developed world.
The World Food Organization (WFO) is the international food assistance branch of the United Nations. It is the world’s largest humanitarian organization and works to address hunger around the world.
According to the WFO, around one third of all the food produced worldwide is “lost or wasted” while it’s still fit for human consumption.
A group of 63 French Members of Parliament saw this problem as an opportunity. In late July, they proposed a new law forcing large supermarkets (those with 1,000 square metres/10,800 sq ft or moreof floor space) to donate their, “unsold but still consumable food products” to charity.
The proposal follows a number of moves in Europe to cut back on food waste. Earlier this year, the European Union proposed a scrapping of the “best if used by” labels on foods that have long shelf-lives, such as coffee, rice, dry pasta, hard cheeses, jams and pickles.
Then in May, Belgium passed a law similar to the one that France is now proposing.
Many French supermarkets are already donating their unsold food to charities, but the Parliament members felt that more could be done to combat food waste.
The average French supermarket wastes 200 tons of food every year. The EU estimates that across Europe, around 100 million tons of food are wasted yearly.
In the United States, the issue is even more pronounced. Though cross-country comparisons can be difficult, it’s pretty safe to say that on average, the United States wastes more food per person than does any other country in the world.
According to a new study released by the USDA in February, the U.S. wasted an estimated 133 billion pounds (66.5 million tons) of consumable food in 2010.
That food is worth around $161 billion (using retail prices), so food waste is definitely an economic problem. But when you look at the actual loss of calories, you really begin to get a picture of just how much we’re wasting.
According to the USDA’s report, those 133 billion pounds of food contained around 141 trillion calories. That’s equal to 1,249 wasted calories per person per day.
An earlier study from the USDA found 14.5% of American households (about 48 million people) struggle to put food on the table. More than one in five American children are at risk of living in hunger.
Let’s do some quick math… 141 trillion calories ÷ 2,000 calories/day = 70.5 billion days worth of food. Divide that by 48 million (the number of Americans living in hunger), and you get 1,468.75.
What does that number mean? It means that we could feed every hungry person in America for 4 years (and 8.75 days) with the amount of food we waste in just one year.
If we could figure out a way to divert just 25% (35.25 trillion calories) of the edible food we waste to those 48 million Americans in need, we could provide enough meals to completely end hunger in America.
In France, most people are welcoming the proposal, with the only issue being how to pay for the extra refrigerated storage containers that the charities will need to store all the extra food.
To me however, this seems like a very small hang-up. The overall value to society will be hundreds of times greater than the costs of a few giant freezers.
Globally, it is estimated that a staggering 1.3 billion tons of consumable food are wasted every year. So please stop saying that there isn’t enough to go around.
Read the original story from The Telegraph here.