The author, IRIN, paints a stark picture of the gargantuan quantities of food that ends getting wasted. Delving into a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to support the article; IRIN, points out the 1.3 billion tonnes of food that get lost and wasted annually in industrialized and developing nations: in the former, resulting from rejection of good food by retailers and in the latter, due to “pests, diseases, poor storage and inadequate transport” of farm produce. Developing nations bears the blunt of the wastage— approximately 630 million tonnes— despite the efforts made to produce the farm produce. This is due to lack of electricity and preservation facilities to store [surplus] produce and to cap it all, harsh weather elements. Ironically, developed countries— like Britain— have advantages such as pesticides, disease-resistant seeds, grain dryers, temperature-regulated silos, and refrigerator facilities (IRIN, 2011). Their farm produce are rejected and end up by major supermarkets which dictate the price based on the impression of the produce such as size and color. Also, by initiating larger food packets or “buy one, get one free”, the supermarkets make the buyers take more than they can consume leading to wastage.
IRIN offers solutions currently being tested; developing countries can use simple preservation methods such as clay urns. Also, farmers in developed nations can stop dealing with the major supermarkets because contrary to the supermarkets’ wrongly-conceived perception— that buyers will reject the produce based on impression— buyers don’t mind. Ways to alleviate the wastage include farmers selling directly to the retailers, and major supermarkets selling the would-be rejected produce cheaply (Gregory, 2006). In developing countries, the produce most likely to rot is that high in sugar and moisture. Generally, starting in-house kitchens to make use of the unused produced has helped alleviate the problem.
There are several factors that are associated with food wastage. One is social factor. During ceremonies such as Christmas, food wasted is at its peak. Based on a report by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the amount of food and drink that goes down the waste in the U.K is has an enormous increment during the Christmas holidays (Evans, 2011). According to the program, an unbelievable 230,000 tonnes of food are wasted at that time. To sum up it all, UK household throw away a fifth of the food and drink that they purchase. In 2010, a staggering quantity of 7.2 million tonnes worth of food was wasted, and which literally speaking, could fill the London’s Wembley Stadium over and over again for seven times. Of that huge waste, more than four million tonnes could be consumed (Pool, 2012). Also, supermarkets contribute to food waste. Supermarket packages, such as “buy one get one free”, “coerce” customers to buy more than they can eat— and ultimately the food ending in the bin— by making them believe that they getting value for their money. Some people, referred to as ‘Ditsy Diarist’ in the Sainsbury’s 2009 survey, shop for food then end up eating out and they end up having a fridge with food ripe for throwing away; others, ‘Separate Shopper’, shop and end up duplicating what their and the food finds its way to the bin. There are also people who refuse to take food that is near its “self by date”. Also in the social factor context, the level of income is a determining factor in food wastage where people earning a lower income tend to waste more because they do not have a shopping plan and have a “live for today” perception.
The second factor is technological. During harvesting, there are food losses that occur because the machinery used in the mechanization is not in the capacity to harvest all crops. After harvesting, lack of proper storage facilities may lead to pests, rodents, and insects infesting on the harvest. Also, it may lead to molding of the harvest (Jenny, Christel & Ulf, 2011). Poor transportation facilities such as refrigerators and storing them for long periods of time, may make farm produce, such as dairy products, shrink. Wrong storage and transportation techniques or mistakes in the storage of produce such as not storing at the right temperatures can lead to the destruction and subsequent loss of perishable produce such as by withering, affected by microbes, or by bacteria (Nathalie, 2009). Processing of food— such as when removing parts that cannot be eaten, bone trimming, extra fat, affected parts of the flesh— also leads to food loss. For instance, converting a fresh apple to applesauce leads to 20% loss of its total weight while a fresh potato loses 50% of its weight when processing it to frozen French fries. If the packaging of the foods have been crushed, or are destroyed, the content inside, food, is thrown away.
The third factor is culture. Cultural differences play a vital part in food wastage. For example, a visitor to South Korea, would be expected to and his or her actions seen as polite if left food on the plate. The politeness is seen in that the South Korean hosts oversupply their guest with food that they are sure they would not eat all (Schneider & Obersteiner, 2007) . In some communities, such as the Inuit of the Arctic regions, partake animals while in the developed societies— like the U.S— medical advice is offered and people advised not to consumer animal fats to minimize the consumption of calories. In such areas, fats are trimmed and thrown away. Animal blood is used in some cultures such as to the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania where it forms the staple food, and in Britain whereby it is used when preparing dishes like black pudding, however, in many other cultures, it is considered not suitable for human consumption. Another example; Chinese and many African societies view the internal organs of an animal as delicacies but in a many other societies outside of the two aforementioned geographical locations, they are thrown away.
The forth is political factor. Political instability affects food in various aspects. When there are conflicts, it makes it difficult in the transportation and marketing of food leading to food loss and wastage. Also, political instability may lead to the destabilization of support systems like the destruction of markets and infrastructure (Jonas, 1996). Political instability causes wars which lead to food loss. An example is during the Second World War. Prior to this period, the quantity of food imported by Britain was approximately 55 million annually. However, with nations fighting each other, there was disruption of supply such as Germany’s efforts of using battleships and submarines to sever Britain’s food importation trade (Helen et al, 2012). Also, with dwindling food supplies, there was food rationing and governments used to under-supply their citizens insufficient food quantities. Therefore, [and in such situations] people had to use, and subsequently, lower food wastage. Living people who still attest to such experiences are less likely to waste food that people born after the war.
Next, is the historical factor. Since ancient times and up to the time of civilization, the major food waste of the hunters and gatherers was the bones. However, nowadays— and more so in postindustrial cultures— compared to income, food is relatively not expensive. Therefore, in such societies, food wastage is more and more becoming a norm. Also, unlike in the past when food could be re-used, developed nations have the perception that its is relatively inexpensive to dispose of food that using it or re-using.
Lastly, is the geographical factor. Food accessibility is also a determining factor in food wastage. In places where the residents live far away from shops, the circumstances greatly influences their choices on food. For instance, families whose income is low and who live in areas far away from shops. Such families may not be in a position to own cars or afford to pay the public mode of transport in a regular basis. Therefore —and more so in developing countries whereby families buy meals enough just for that day— such families have to utilize the available foods to their maximize and subsequently, have lower levels of food wastages (Hunter, 1998). Families Also, areas situated in far away locations imply that the produce has to be transported over long distances. More food miles make food less desirable, increases both the chances of damage to perishable foods and being thrown away.
In conclusion, people who have experienced the effects of lack of food, such as in the Second World War and in conflict-prone areas, can attest the importance of every little amount of food. Most older parents can share this view. Unfortunately, their children— segment mostly throws food away— never believe such testimonies. Parents with such family members members should involve them in charity work so that they can witness that for some people, getting food is a gloom-and-doom situation. To wrap it up, the old adage aptly puts it, you never miss water until the well runs dry.
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