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Faith Nyasuguta

The global food waste crisis persists, with an estimated 19% of food produced worldwide in 2022 going to waste, amounting to about 1.05 billion metric tons, according to a recent report by the United Nations. 

The report, titled the U.N. Environment Programme’s Food Waste Index Report, aims to track countries’ progress in halving food waste by 2030.

Published on Wednesday, the report marks a significant increase in the number of countries participating in the index, nearly doubling from the previous year. However, caution is advised in directly comparing the data due to the lack of comprehensive information from many nations.

Co-authored by the UNEP and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), an international charity, the report analyzed data from households, food service establishments, and retailers. It revealed that each person wastes approximately 79 kilograms (about 174 pounds) of food annually, translating to at least 1 billion meals wasted globally every day.

The majority of food waste, accounting for 60%, occurs at the household level. Food service establishments contribute 28% of the waste, while retailers contribute 12%. Clementine O’Connor, the UNEP’s focal point for food waste, expressed dismay at the findings, emphasizing the urgent need for collaborative and systemic action to address the issue.

The report’s release comes at a critical juncture as millions worldwide grapple with chronic hunger and escalating food crises exacerbated by conflicts such as the Israel-Hamas war and violence in Haiti. Experts warn of impending famine in northern Gaza and mounting food insecurity in Haiti.

Beyond its humanitarian implications, food waste exacts a significant environmental toll, contributing to land and water depletion, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, including methane. Food loss and waste generate 8 to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, ranking third after China and the U.S.

Fadila Jumare, a project associate at the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics in Nigeria, stressed the adverse impact of food waste on vulnerable populations already facing food insecurity. The scarcity of food further exacerbates the plight of the poorest segments of society, limiting access to nutritious diets.

Brian Roe, a food waste researcher at Ohio State University, emphasized the multifaceted benefits of reducing food waste, including resource conservation, environmental preservation, enhanced food security, and land optimization. He stressed the importance of concerted efforts to tackle the issue.

The report highlighted significant progress in addressing food waste in low- and middle-income countries, signaling a growing global awareness of the issue. However, it emphasized the need for wealthier nations to take the lead in international cooperation and policy development to combat food waste effectively.


Governments, regional bodies, and industry groups are increasingly adopting public-private partnerships to tackle food waste and its environmental impacts. These partnerships involve collaboration between governments, municipalities, and businesses across the food supply chain.

Food redistribution initiatives, such as Food Banking Kenya, play a crucial role in mitigating food waste by collecting surplus food from farms, markets, and supermarkets and redistributing it to vulnerable populations. Such efforts not only address food insecurity but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Richard Swannel, director of Impact Growth at WRAP and a co-author of the report, emphasized that food waste is a global issue that transcends economic boundaries. He called for collective action to address the problem and emphasized the potential for immediate action to yield tangible benefits.

The global food waste crisis persists, with significant social, environmental, and economic consequences. Addressing this challenge requires concerted efforts at the individual, community, and international levels to reduce waste, alleviate hunger, and protect the planet.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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