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Let’s Not Waste the Opportunity to End Hunger

, World Food Programme

The Healthy Not Hungry campaign focuses on the close relationship between ending hunger and the ability to live a healthy, active and full life. It features five main ingredients as the core elements in achieving Zero Hunger. Here, WFP Chief Economist Arif Husain discusses one of these — food waste.

We produce more than enough food to feed everyone. We produce about 4 billion tons each year, of which about 1 billion tons, or about a third, is wasted. The price tag of this waste is about US$ 750 billion each year in cultivated land, water resources and greenhouse gases emissions.

We can offer a better future to younger generations. Photo: WFP/Ramin Rafirasme

People are surprised to know that in developing countries, and in developed countries, we waste the same proportion of food, about a third again, but for different reasons.

In developing countries, food is wasted before it comes to the plate, in processing, production and storage. Why? Because it's not valued enough, and it's not valued enough because there's limited access to markets. The roads are not there or transportation and processing facilities are lacking.

In developed countries, food gets wasted on the plate. Why? Because here we spend very little of our incomes on food, maybe less than 10 percent — so the waste does not hurt the pocket.

Bottom line — we produce more than enough to feed everyone of us 7 billion despite all this waste. So without waste we could feed 9 billion today which is projected to be the global population by 2050.

Arif Husain: ‘We produce more than enough food to feed everyone.' Photo: WFP/Dina Jerkovic

Does it make sense economically to take care of hunger? Of course it does! The cost to the global economy as a result of lost productivity and direct health care costs is about US$ 3.5 trillion, or 5 percent of GDP. That is US$ 500 for you and me, throughout the world.

We produce enough yet we suffer huge economic losses due to hunger. Then why haven't we solved the problem? That's the main question people ask me. My answer is: hunger is not a one-off! Therefore we must seek local solutions that not only get us to zero hunger but also help us stay there. That means national governments must be front and centre, and give full political and financial commitment to solving the hunger problem.

‘We can offer a better future'

Start by investing in infrastructure and human capital in rural areas, children's nutrition and education, connecting people to markets, establishing social protection programmes that contribute to inclusive economic growth, and in fact bring the facilities of the cities to rural areas.

And if we are able to do that, we can offer a better future to younger generations in rural areas, minimize the migration from rural to urban areas that comes out of destitution, and overall make the world a better place.

See here for more on the Healthy Not Hungry campaign.