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Mar 29

The world wastes more than 1 billion meals every day as hundreds of millions go hungry

The world wastes more than 1 billion meals every day as hundreds of millions go hungry, UN report finds

CNN — More than 1 billion meals are wasted across the world each day while nearly 800 million people go hungry, a new United Nations report has found.The world wasted 1.05 billion metric tons of food in 2022, meaning about a fifth of the food available to people was squandered by households, restaurants and other parts of the food service and retail sectors.This is on top of the 13% of the world’s food lost as it makes its journey from farm to fork. In total, about a third of all food goes to waste during the production process. | Updated 9:38 AM EDT, Wed March 27, 2024 | By Christian Edwards, CNN Business

These waste figures are particularly stark when contrasted with the report’s findings that about a third of the world’s population faces food insecurity and 783 million are affected by hunger. The staggering statistics, published Wednesday in the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Food Waste Index Report 2024, raise questions about the world’s ability to distribute the food it produces and highlights the role of food waste as a driver of climate change, according to UNEP Director Inger Andersen. “Food waste is a global tragedy. Millions will go hungry today as food is wasted across the world,” Andersen said. “Not only is this a major development issue, but the impacts of such unnecessary waste are causing substantial costs to the climate and nature.” The report distinguished between food “loss” — food discarded early in the supply chain, for instance vegetables that rot in fields and meat that spoils when unrefrigerated — and food “waste,” food thrown out by households, restaurants and stores. Households wasted 631 million metric tons of food in 2022 — 60% of the total — while the food service sector accounted for 28% of the waste and retail 12%. The average person wastes 79 kilograms (174 pounds) of food each year, meaning at least one billion meals of edible food are wasted in households each day, the report found.

Even these estimates are conservative, according to the report. While data collection has improved — with the number of data points at the household level almost doubling since the UN’s 2021 food waste report — it criticized countries for patchy monitoring.

Christian Edwards, CNN Business

Just 21 countries have included food loss and waste in their national climate plans, it said, despite the fact that it generates 8% to 10% of global planet-heating emissions – almost five times more than emissions from the aviation sector. While the climate impact of gas-guzzling flights has been well covered, the report suggested the impact of the more mundane issue of food waste has been overlooked. Food is resource-intensive to produce, requiring huge amounts of land and water, and food systems are responsible for about a third of global planet-heating emissions. The vast majority of food waste goes to landfill, generating methane as it breaks down. A potent greenhouse gas, methane has about 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years. Food waste not only fuels climate change but may be exacerbated by it, the report said. Hotter countries were found to waste more food than cooler ones, as higher temperatures make it more challenging to store and transport food before it spoils. The report also said food waste is not just a “rich world” phenomenon. The amount of food wasted in high- and middle-income countries differed by just 7 kilograms (15 pounds) per person each year.

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