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Action Alert: Tackle food waste on World Environment Day

31. May 2013

    The theme for this year’s World Environment Day (June 5) is food 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. By eliminating avoidable waste in the food chain, we could dramatically reduce the amount of food that we will need to produce, and invest in regenerating natural resources for future decades and an increasing population.

    The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognizes this opportunity and has devoted this year’s World Environment Day to raising awareness about the amount of food produced each year that is wasted – an estimated 1.2 to 2.0 billion tonnes, or up to 50% of all food produced for human consumption! This waste happens because we don’t have local storage, processing and preservation facilities or adequate transportation infrastructure in many developing countries, and because of the wasteful practices of retailers and consumers in wealthy, developed countries.


    What can I and my church do?

    • Reflect and pray: Organize a bible study on food waste and post harvest losses from the perspective of Christian stewardship. Perhaps you could focus on the story of the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:5-15) when, after having fed the crowd with a miraculously inexhaustible supply of food, Jesus tells the disciples “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted”.

    • Reduce your food waste: In rich countries, consumers waste almost the same amount of food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes). As a family, set up the EAA’s Waste Tracker 

      (EN, SP, FR)

      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.

    • Plan your shopping: Look at what you have at home and use the Weekly Meal Planner

      (EN, SP, FR)

      to help plan your food purchases. Sticking to a shopping list will help you reduce the risk of impulse buys or buying unnecessarily large quantities which then may be wasted.

    • Learn about the chain of people involved in getting food from the ground to your table: Throughout the year, EAA is interviewing small market owners, grocery store employees, cafeteria workers, farmers, local food banks and restaurant owners about their best practices to reduce food waste and highlighting best practices at the international level. You can do the same locally. Use the EAA questionnaires (here) to help you get started.

    • Gleaning with youth: 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 delicious meals can be created with leftovers.

    • Advocate for change: Discuss these issues with your government, promote the introduction of regulations and practices to reduce and manage food waste, and advocate for national and international investment in better local facilities and transportation infrastructure to reduce post-harvest food loss, especially in the developing world. See the online good practice map for actions to suggest to the decision makers in your area.

    For more learning and action ideas, see

    For more information on World Environment Day, see http://www.unep.org/wed/



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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