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Fast for Life! Reflect on Global Food Waste and Post Harvest Losses

10. January 2012

    Whether it is for one day – notably Ash Wednesday (22 February) – one week, or for the entire Lenten period, we welcome you to “Fast for Life” and reflect on our consumption patterns and on global food waste.

    More than one third of the food produced on this planet for human consumption is wasted. This amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tons of lost food per year. In developing countries, food loss occurs mainly at the point of production, harvest, post-harvest and processing, due to a lack of infrastructure, technology and training – while in developed nations, waste results mainly from the behavior of consumers and retailers.

    Christians must not be passive witnesses to the fact that 15 million children worldwide are dying of hunger per year, especially when we consider the amount of food that is going to waste. In a world challenged by climate change, a rising population, and a global economic crisis, we need to be smarter, more efficient, and fairer about the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.

    Think about global food security and the injustice of waste:

    All of the hungry people in the world could be lifted out of undernourishment on less than 25% of the food that is wasted in the United States and Europe alone.

    Think about our planet’s increasing thirst:

    The irrigation water used around the world to grow food that is wasted would be enough for the domestic needs (200 litres per person per day) of the expected number of people on the planet by 2050.

    Think about how poor countries could be less reliant on food aid:

    Better investment in storage, processing and distribution infrastructure in the developing world could prevent post-harvest losses. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa 25% of fruits and vegetables are lost during processing and packaging, and another 17% during distribution.

    Think about climate change:

    10% of rich countries' greenhouse gas emissions come from growing food that is never eaten.

    By eliminating waste in the food chain, we could reduce the amount of new food that we will need to produce in half. This is important considering that we will need to feed 9 billion people by 2050 from the resources of our one planet.


    What you can do

    Join by taking either individual or collective action:

  • Organize a worship service on Ash Wednesday or on a Sunday during Lent using EAA prayers or other reflection resources about food, hunger and waste at http://www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/food/sustainable-consumption/fast-for-life/
  • As a family, set up a “waste tracker” sheet on your refrigerator or near your waste bins. Designate one family member to be the “waste buster” for the week and mark down how much food was wasted each day (i.e. fresh produce that went bad, food bought that expired and had to be thrown away, cooked food that wasn’t eaten). At the end of the week, discuss as a family ways to reduce this waste and options for disposal, such as composting.
  • Familiarise yourself with the chain of people involved in getting the food from the ground to your table. Invite them to answer the ‘Waste not, want not’ questionnaire available soon in our 2012 Fast for Life resource library at www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/food/sustainable-consumption/fast-for-life/
  • Form a study group to look at the responses and come up with action that your community can take to reduce waste. Why not promote a community compost initiative or lobby for a waste reduction law?
  • Reverse your shopping list. Start by looking at what you have at home and how you can use it prior to going to the store for more food.
  • Pick up wasted groceries from the local grocer and host a ‘Cooking from Scraps’ night at your local community centre or youth club. Teach teens how to make ‘recipes from waste’ at after school groups and the difference between the ‘sell by date’ and the ‘consume by date’.
  • Host a cooking competition with local cooks/restaurateurs to see what innovations can be created with leftovers.
  • Support farmer cooperatives to help smallholder farmers

    1) be more efficient with their planning by knowledge sharing,

    2) assist each other in times of risk and in marketing their products, and

    3) work together to receive credit from agricultural financial institutions or advance payment from purchasers.

  • Discuss these issues with your government representatives, and advocate for investment in infrastructure and transportation and proper waste management.
  • These ideas for actions have been suggested by our members. Use ideas that work best in your context, be creative in adapting them or making up your own! Send in your suggestions for actions and stories of best practice in reducing food waste to ccampeau@e-alliance.ch

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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