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Jan 192011
 

Green Right Now Reports

We in America have grown up hearing how we live in a world of plenty, and for many of us, that has been true.

But hundreds of millions of the world’s human residents have so much less than ‘plenty’, they don’t even have adequate food.

Zeer Pot in the Sudan.

WorldWatch Institute, which tracks human welfare around the globe, reports that 265 million people are malnourished, and continue to suffer from food shortages because they lack the ability to safely store crops or keep produce fresh.

WorldWatch sponsors a program, Nourishing the Planet, that’s taking a closer look at how to alleviate hunger in Africa and elsewhere, and not necessarily through food giveaways, but through innovative solutions that help imperiled populations become more food secure.

The project’s team members have pinpointed one cause of food scarcity that can be found in SubSaharan Africa and in the United States: Food waste.

About 40 percent of the food produced around the globe spoils before it ever reaches the table because it cannot be stored or protected from pests, reports research intern Janeen Madan, in a blog on Nourishing the Planet’s website.

The team members have documented ways that food waste is being addressed in many countries they’ve visited.

In Kenya, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture are training farmers in ways to protect their corn crops from losses caused by the fungi mycotoxin. In Afghanistan, the FAO has provided metallic silos for grain storage to some 18,000 households.

Often, the solutions are simply engineered. Madan cites the example of Zeer pots, developed by Practical Action. Zeer pots are double-layered clay pots that are insulated from the heat with a layer of moist sand. Native people in less developed regions can use them to extend the life of fresh produce that would otherwise wilt or rot in the heat.

What can we do in the U.S.? Aside from buying locally and raising some of our own food, which cuts carbon emissions and spoilage by reducing shipping, and takes advantage of seasonal foods and supports local economies — we can attack food waste in our homes and communities.

Stopping food waste could mean partnering with a local restaurant to get leftover perishables to a food bank, or it could mean simply cooking more efficiently in your own home, to reduce leftovers.

In many cities, such as San Francisco, officials are forcing the issue with residents by asking that garbage be separated into trash and compostable “organic” goods. This allows cities to recycle household food waste back into the food chain, where it can do some good, instead of leaving food scraps to decay in the landfill.

Think of food as a form of energy. It takes time to create that source of energy, and wasting it is akin to leaving the lights on in an empty room.

It’s something to think about, next time you scrape plates after dinner.

To learn more, read:

  • The WorldWatch “What Works” series of articles about the findings of the Nourishing the Planet investigation, headed by senior researchers Brian Halweil and Danielle Nierenberg

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