Fruits, vegetables, roots, and tubers are the most lost and wasted food by weight around the world, with 45% of all those produced lost throughout the whole food chain. Harvests are lost for many reasons, including pest infestations, poor harvesting or agricultural equipment, and issues related to handling, storage, packing, and transportation.
Fruits, vegetables, roots, and tubers are the most lost and wasted food by weight around the world, with 45% of all those produced lost throughout the whole food chain. Harvests are lost for many reasons, including pest infestations, poor harvesting or agricultural equipment, and issues related to handling, storage, packing, and transportation. These problems occur due to poor infrastructure, access to markets, or legal frameworks. On the other hand, food wasted refers to discarded food that is still edible for human consumption occurring after the food has reached market. Food is thrown away for many reasons, such as when it is close to or beyond a “best before” date, when large establishments order more food than they need and have excess, or because it has blemishes or a strange shape. This last reason is particularly pertinent for fresh produce, since consumers have developed a preference for perfect-looking produce, so anything that does not meet a certain standard is tossed.
Examples of some roots and tubers
However, this produce is a vital part of diets all over the world, providing valuable nutrients and calories to billions of people. The loss of these goods is detrimental nutritionally, financially, economically, and environmentally, strongly demonstrating the need to save these foods from being lost and wasted. There are currently efforts in place to reduce both loss and waste of these foods, but larger-scale efforts need to be prioritized and implemented across nations and large organizations to significantly reduce the current percentages of produce wastage.
Some of the changes are regional, such as improving local infrastructure so that there are safe and plentiful roads, harvest equipment, and transportation sources to allow foods to successfully be harvested and brought to markets instead of rotting in a field. Each region of the world is at a different stage in this process, so working directly with communities to meet their exact needs will provide the most benefit instead of trying to implement one solution across a vast area without regional adaptation. This also requires improved access to markets and agricultural education services so that a larger amount of food is grown and successfully reaches consumers. Additionally, improvements in handling and storage technologies greatly increases the percentage of food that reaches markets and stays safe for consumption, since bacteria levels stay low and food can be transported without being ruined by temperature or improper containers.
There are many improvements to make on the processing, distribution, and consumption part of the food chain as well. One step is to improve any existing packaging so that food stays fresher longer, as well as to improve supply chain management so that companies order just as much food as they need and improve how they handle excess food. There are countless organizations that accept excess food and redistribute it to hungry people, as well as farmers that are happy to take food that is past its prime but can still be enjoyed by livestock so that excess does not need to end up in a landfill.
produce at a food bank
Changes in distribution, marketing, and consumption are an imperative part of making an impact in the amount of produce wasted each year, since it is a huge contributor to food wastage. Food redistribution is essential at these steps as well, since it already diverts billions of tons of food from landfills to people who need it. Some stores have also implemented a program that sells slightly older or imperfect looking produce for a reduced price, which incentivizes their consumers to buy produce that may not look as nice but still tastes delicious. Oftentimes this produce is not even sold by supermarkets, since consumers have developed a preference for perfect looking produce which makes supermarkets hesitant to sell imperfect produce. Changing consumer mindsets is a very important part as well, since their preferences shape what is sold at stores and restaurants, so encouraging them to purchase produce that would otherwise go into a landfill will make a huge difference.
If action is taken in these areas by citizens, organizations, and governments, huge progress can be made in reducing the amount of fruits, vegetables, roots, and tubers that are lost or wasted each year. By doing so, millions more people will have access to fresh, nutritious foods! Countries will be better off financially, nutritionally, environmentally, and economically, and food security will be improved all over the world.