8 Facts to Know About Food Waste and Hunger

World Food Program USA
October 1, 2020
Photo: WFP/Fares Khoailed

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.

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 . That’s more than twice the number of undernourished people across the globe.
  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 percent of the food supply in the U.S. is wasted, which works out to more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.
  5. The amount of post-harvest food loss in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2011 cost $4 billion, surpassing what the region received in food assistance 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 United Nations 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. The U.N. World Food Programme 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.

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.