Fighting hunger by cutting food waste
Worldwide, we waste around 1.3 billion tonnes of food a year, while nearly a billion people go hungry. An EU-funded project has created an online community to tackle the problem by sharing knowledge and redistributing food.
© XYZ Productions
Food waste has a big environmental impact. When we waste food, we waste the resources used to produce it, including land, water and energy. Producing 1 kg of beef requires 15 000 litres of water, so using, rather than wasting, food would boost sustainability.
Annual food waste in Europe amounts to an average of 173kg per person and costs the economy about EUR 143 billion. At the same time, 122 million Europeans are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
The EU-funded SavingFood project is highlighting this issue among various groups to encourage them to act. It is creating an online platform using open source tools connected to a social networking environment to support redistribution of surplus food to people in need.
The project also seeks to create a social movement dedicated to reducing waste and fighting hunger, with the aim of engaging everyone with a role to play, from the general public to shops, restaurants, farmers, charities and policymakers. It supports knowledge creation and discussion to make people aware of the need to work together and live sustainably.
SavingFood empowers citizens to take collective action, explains project coordinator Eirini Kalemaki of ViLabs in Greece. Empowerment and community participation are central to mobilising peoples creativity and creating synergies. We leverage the power of social networks to create strong neighbourhood ties, cultivate the feeling of belonging to an active community and foster grassroots processes. This contributes to a more sustainable society.
Connecting donors and recipients
Three main activities take place via the platform. The first is the creation of links enabling donors, such as restaurants and shops, to offer surplus food to recipients like charities. The second relates to the organisation and promotion of gleaning and farmers market events at which farmers make unsold produce available to charities. The third concerns educating people on spotting places where food might be wasted and getting them to inform SavingFood so that the project can take action.
Through SavingFood, anyone with surplus food or crops can donate it to organisations that help those in need and reduce the cost of waste disposal. This has the added benefit of keeping food out of landfills.
Most food redistribution currently takes place via food banks using a warehouse model with high transport and storage bills. SavingFood relieves them of this burden. Recipients of the donations, such as migrant shelters, also benefit. Meanwhile, the money saved on food can be used for other things.
The key to SavingFoods success is getting people to change their habits and avoid food waste. To this end, the platform is designed to be adaptable for use by other groups with similar aims.
Our mission is to offer an open source platform that can easily be adopted by organisations fighting food waste. In our consortium, three partners will benefit by using it to become more effective, increase their reach and maximise their impact, says Kalemaki. In addition, the platform and the engagement strategy that accompanies it will become available to other communities interested in taking action to save surplus food.