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Agricultural News

Next Generation Leaders Discuss Solutions to Food Waste

Thu, 06 Oct 2022 08:42:16 CDT

Next Generation Leaders Discuss Solutions to Food Waste Food waste is a serious issue that contributes to food insecurity and lack of sustainability, and solving it will require stakeholders to consider issues of food access, affordability, and cultural acceptability, according to a panel of next-generation leaders participating in Farm Journal Foundation’s Speaker Series.

About one-third of all food produced globally is wasted, and about 8 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste, said Katy Hart, Operations Director for ReFED, a national nonprofit that focuses on data-driven solutions to food loss and waste. Hart was the keynote speaker for the Sept. 29 event, titled “Food Waste: Access, Affordability and Acceptability,” the second installment in Farm Journal Foundation’s Speaker Series this year on food waste and loss. The panel was moderated by Roger Thurow, Scholar in Residence at the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University and a Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and was presented in partnership with Universities Fighting World Hunger.

The Speaker Series event followed the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health held in late September, which pledged to end hunger in America by 2030. Part of the U.S. commitment included reducing barriers to food recovery, including “to prevent food loss and waste across the food supply chain.” Hunger has increased in the U.S. and around the world since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to its implications for food security, food waste also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, as fuel, water, fertilizer, and other inputs are used to produce foods that are never eaten.

“Food waste is solvable in our time. We know a lot about the solutions available today that are needed to halve food waste, and we know where we have remaining opportunities to innovate, to design new solutions, and to make existing ones more effective,” Hart said. “It is absurd that we are letting 35% of our food go unsold or uneaten, alongside the major challenges facing our climate, society, and economy today. When we solve food waste, we will relieve tremendous pressures on each of these systems.”

Food waste and loss occurs in both developing and industrialized countries at different points in the supply chain. In the U.S., there are a number of efforts underway to address food waste, including The FarmLink Project, a nonprofit organization that connects farmers with local food banks to prevent produce from being wasted and to help hungry families eat healthy. Aidan Reilly, Co-Founder and Head of Partnerships at The FarmLink Project, said donated food needs to be culturally appropriate for consumers in order to prevent waste.

“You have to understand what kind of food you are sending and the way in which you send it, so that number one, organizations have the capacity to take it and it’s not overwhelming their storage, and number two, so that people are going to be able to know what to do with it,” Reilly said.

Ridwan Abdul Rashid, a student at Loyola University in Chicago who is affiliated with the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), knows firsthand about how lack of food acceptability can contribute to food waste. While in high school, he noticed that many students were going hungry, and cafeteria food was being wasted, because his school did not offer halal food options for Muslim students. Rashid advocated for change with his school’s food supplier, and the school now offers halal food.

“At first I thought, I’m just an immigrant’s kid, a refugee kid, I don’t speak English and I can’t do anything to change the world,” Rashid said on the panel. “I was proud of myself that I could do something, impact something, and inspire somebody else.”

Food waste is also being addressed on college campuses, through initiatives such as the Campus Kitchen at the University of Kentucky. Kendra OoNorasak, the Director of Community Outreach at the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at the University of Kentucky, said the program recovers food from campus dining facilities, grocery stores, and farmers markets, and transforms it into healthy meals for those experiencing hunger and poverty in the local community.

“Though food insecurity is often defined as ‘not knowing where your next meal is coming from,’ it is important to note that it is not just about putting any meal on the table, and it is about having a reliable consistent access to affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate meals and resources in an equitable manner,” OoNorasak said. “Food insecurity has such a negative connotation that often blames victims instead of our current food systems, but we, as food citizens, need to come together, destigmatize this, and fight against this multifaceted issue together.”

Farm Journal Foundation’s annual Speaker Series brings together thought leaders from the food and agricultural industry, academia, student groups, and the nonprofit world to discuss issues and challenges facing food and agriculture. The Speaker Series works in partnership with 15 universities and six student organizations, with many university partners including the series in their curriculum. To watch a replay of the Sept. 29 event, visit Farm Journal Foundation’s YouTube channel.



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