8 Facts to Know About Food Waste and Hunger

Agriculture

Global hunger isn’t about a lack of food. Right now, the world produces enough food to nourish every man, woman and child on the planet.

But nearly one-third of all food produced each year is squandered or spoiled before it can be consumed.

In the Rwamwanja refugee settlement, refugees attend a WFP-sponsored training to build their livelihoods and self resilience. The training focuses on reducing post-harvest food loss.
WFP/Lydia Wamala
In the Rwamwanja refugee settlement, refugees attend a WFP-sponsored training to build their livelihoods and self resilience. The training focuses on reducing post-harvest food loss.

For many Americans, this food waste happens in the kitchen — when we prepare food that goes uneaten or leave food to spoil in our fridges and cabinets.

But for millions of people in the developing world, this food waste happens at harvest time. Poor storage leads to pest infestations or mold that ruin crops before they even leave the farm. A lack of access to technology and markets means many farmers are forced to watch their crops rot in their fields — the manual and financial investment required to harvest them is often not available.

Along with chronic poverty, conflict and a lack of resources, food waste is one of the root causes of hunger worldwide.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Approximately $1 trillion of food is lost or wasted every year — accounting for roughly one-third of the world’s food. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reversing this trend would preserve enough food to feed 2 billion people — more than twice the number of undernourished people across the globe.

    Memunatu Mumuni (left), Mari Ziblim and Abiba Murtapha clean rice at a World Food Programme project site in Nyankpala of Ghana.
    WFP/Nyani Quarmyne
    Memunatu Mumuni (left), Mari Ziblim and Abiba Murtapha clean rice at a World Food Programme project site in Nyankpala of Ghana.
  2. Consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa each year.
  3. If wasted food were a country, it would be the third largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world, after the U.S. and China
  4. Roughly 30% to 40% of the food supply in the U.S. is wasted, which works out to more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.

    Eriasa Muteeba picks up his new grain silo following training sponsored by WFP in Uganda's Iganga district.
    WFP/Lydia Wamala
    Eriasa Muteeba picks up his new grain silo following training sponsored by WFP in Uganda’s Iganga district.
  5. The amount of post-harvest food loss in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2011 cost $4 billion, surpassing what the region received in foreign aid that year.
  6. Cutting global food waste in half by 2030 is one of the U.N.’s top priorities. In fact, it’s one of organization’s 17 sustainable development goals.
  7. The World Food Programme’s (WFP) Zero Post-Harvest Losses project sells low-cost, locally produced grain silos to farmers and provides them with training on post-harvest crop management in five key areas: Harvesting, drying, threshing, solarization, and storage.
  8. WFP is also tackling food waste by boosting access to local markets. This includes sourcing its school meals with locally grown crops, working with communities to build better roads and storage facilities and, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, providing cargo bikes to mostly female farmers to increase their access to markets.

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