May 31, 2022

World Hunger Day is an initiative that was created in 2011 by The Hunger Project, a non-profit organization that works towards ending world hunger. The aim of World Hunger Day, which is being observed for its eighth consecutive year, is to raise “awareness to the more than 820 million people living in chronic hunger”.

“On World Hunger Day – and every day – we ask the world to come together with a shared goal of realizing healthy, fulfilling lives of self-reliance and dignity for all people,” The Hunger Project explains.

The facts:

  • 130 million additional people may be pushed into chronic hunger by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 60% of the world’s hungry are women
  • Hunger kills more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

According to the UN environmental program, one-third of all the food produced in the world – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – is lost or wasted every year. Globally, if food waste could be represented as its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the United States. The resources needed to produce the food that becomes lost or wasted has a carbon footprint of about 3.3 billion tons of CO2.

In the U.S. alone, an estimated 133 billion pounds of edible food (worth over $161B) goes to waste every year. Food waste also contributes to the largest volume of material in the U.S. landfills accounting for 21% of the waste stream. Food waste costs Canadians $31B annually or about 2% of the country’s GDP.

Additional points:

  • All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.
  • The water used to produce the food wasted could be used by 9 billion people at around 200 liters per person per day.
  • 25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten.
  • Preventing food from going to waste is one of the easiest and most powerful actions you can take to save money and lower your climate change footprint by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and conserving natural resources.
  • Eliminating global food waste would save 4.4 million tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road.
  • By 2050, the world population will hit 9 billion people. By then, food production must be increased by 70% from today’s levels to meet this demand.

To put this in perspective, consider the following: it is recommended to have 5 daily servings of fruits of vegetables. This equals approximately 400 grams or 1 pound (source: WHO). After considering proteins, grains and dairy, we may bring the minimum daily intake of food to be at least 2.5 pounds for an average adult. Say a person requires these rations for 80 years, which is 73,050 pounds of food. 133 billion pounds (edible food wasted in the US per year) divided by 73,050 pounds is equal to 1,820,670 persons. Meaning, close to 2 million people could be fed, for their lifetimes, on the edible food wasted in the US alone per year.

But where does our waste come from? 43% from homes, 40% from restaurants and grocery stores, 16% from farms and 2% from manufacturers. Food Waste in America has more insightful information.

Raveesh Varma, Epstein's Chief Structural Engineer, grew up in India. "Growing up, I remember comparatively how little waste we produced," he said. "We ate with the seasons. Greens, peelings, rinds and stalks of several vegetables were recycled into additional food items. A mixture of crushed egg shells with boiled tea leaves was used for plant food. Spoiled milk was recycled into paneer. Packaging was minimal for anything."

In fact, he added, that was part of the attraction of goodies from first world countries: they were packaged so meticulously. He recalls a cover story in “India Today” - “The Health of a Society is Measured by the Waste it Produces”. In 1991, when India's economy collapsed, the socialist model was abandoned and India embraced a consumer-based economy. Suddenly, there was a surplus of everything; everything could be replaced, there were substitutes for everything. There was no time for composting, selling old newspapers and magazines (plastic bags took the place of handmade paper bags), getting quilts stuffed and re-stuffed because synthetic ones were cheaper and prettier. Now it seems we have come full-circle but, it is clear that bad habits are easier to pick up and harder to forsake.