Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Food Foolish #7: A 2017 Report Card

When Food Foolish was published in mid-2015, John Mandyck (@JohnMandyck) and I argued that minimizing food loss and waste was the most effective way to reduce chronic hunger and mitigate climate change.  We painted the picture of a broken global food model, with humankind wasting one-third of everything produced--some 1.3 billion metric tons of food.  The energy used to grow this mountain of wasted food contributed 4.4 billion metrics tons of carbon equivalents to the atmosphere, diverted enough freshwater to meet the needs of the entire continent of Africa, and destroyed wealth equal to the GDP of France.  And those stunning figures were secondary to the fact that more than 800 million people, nearly the entire population of the European Union and United States combined, went hungry each day.

We demonstrated the magnitude of our broken food model by detailing the loss of some 50 percent of the banana crop in India, impoverishing nearly 35,000 smallholder farmers in that country.  We described the 1.7 million deaths that occur annually due to low consumption of fruits and vegetables--foods that suffer particular loss because of their perishability.  We interviewed professionals who had battled international hunger through the World Food Programme, and those fighting domestic food insecurity at the Houston Food Bank.  We described the impact of micronutrient deficiencies on some two billion people, many of them children faced with anemia, blindness, stunting, and wasting.  And we discussed the impact of a twenty-first century mega-trend, urbanization, which is rapidly creating a global middle class that is just as rapidly becoming removed and detached from its sources of food.

We find different ways to lose and waste food around the world, but we're
all consistent in destroying a third of everything intended for our stomachs.
Saddest of all, we did the underlying math on the global food model and found that not only do we produce enough food to feed all 7.4 billion of us today, but if we can reduce loss and waste, we can essentially feed all 9 or 10 billion of us likely to inhabit the planet by 2050.

More than two years after publishing Food Foolish, as we close out 2017, it's a good time to take stock.  How are we doing?  What progress have we made against climate change, hunger, and food waste?  And what's next?

Here's a brief report card, with two caveats:  All opinions are mine.  And, in Food Foolish University, there is no such thing as grade inflation.