We are few days away from Christmas and end-in-year festivities across the world. The hype, frills and thrills surrounding the season are so profoundly heightened, especially in countries where Christmas celebration is duly given priority. It is also a common knowledge that the tendency to waste food is often taken higher during festivities to mark Christmas and the new year celebration across the world.
Food waste at festivities is very alarming in most societies. At Christmas many of the food prepared will never be eaten. Many of us don’t give a thought to the quantity of food we waste daily, weekly, monthly and yearly with an increased tons of food waste during festivities including Christmas.
Food waste in this context refers to Food left over on your plate; too much food prepared and not used all generally land up in the dustbin/dumpsite. Food wastage is actually an unfair attitude, particularly in a nation where we have children who spend days with empty stomach. Our leftovers could be someone’s 1st meal. For every food you waste and throw away there is a stomach that is hungry and going to bed without food.
The United Nations estimates that one in three people in the world do not have access to sufficient food to lead a healthy life. In Nigeria, it is no longer news that the prices of food have skyrocketed majorly due to high inflation, the effects of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread insecurity.
Similarly, the World Food Preservation Center, a collaboration of research institutions and universities around the globe, has also posited that 95 percent of agricultural resources are dedicated to food production, while only 5 percent goes toward food preservation. Against this backdrop, the Centre noted that farmers in Africa will continue to lose as much as half the food they produce before it gets to the market.
Meanwhile, within the global context, about a third of all the food produced in the world for human consumption ends up in landfill and trash heaps, according to an assessment of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). That’s roughly 1.3 million tons of food – mostly fruits and vegetables.
In the light of this, it is pertinent to call for caution in the manner we handle the issue of food waste in seasons like this, particularly in developing countries, such as Nigeria, where an incredible amount of food loss is recorded annually due to lack of infrastructure and energy sources. According to recent statistics, 40 percent of food produced in Nigeria goes to waste mostly during the production-to-processing stages of the food supply chain. Moreover, 123 million metric tons of food never makes it to consumers every year in Nigeria as such items go bad before getting to the market.
Notably, in addition to the money being wasted, discarded food has a negative impact on our environment as it contributes to global warming. Consider the energy and natural resources expended in processing, transporting, storing, and cooking food. Moreover, food waste that ends up in landfills produces a large amount of methane – a more powerful greenhouse gas than even CO2. For the uninitiated, excess amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane, CO2 and chloroflurocarbons absorb infrared radiation and heat up the earth’s atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change.
Food waste also represents a great waste of fresh water and groundwater resources. with agriculture accounting for 70 percent of the water used throughout the world. The food packaging of many food products is excessive. There is a growing awareness that the packaging is environmentally unfriendly because it is non-biodegradable and invariably just gets thrown away and lands up on our landfills (or on our streets as litter).
A lack of planning by or for home cooks often leads to a waste of food. Here are some tips to help you waste less food.
• Food management begins at home – before we even do the shopping.
• Making better use of leftover items, creating menus with existing food items, and making less food is first prize when it comes to reducing food waste.
• Check what stockpiled ingredients you have – whether tinned, frozen or fresh. Use them before purchasing more so that they don’t expire or spoil.
• Reducing consumption is better than reusing.
• Reusing is better than recycling or composting.
• Reducing, re-using, recycling and composting are better than disposing of our food waste.
• Home composting is also a great way to make use of peelings and other compostable food waste. See our page on composting.
• Recycling compostable food waste into compost is a more cost effective method of waste management. From an environmental perspective, home composting does not generate the amount of methane produced by landfills.
• The ‘use by’ label generally applies to fresh meat and fish, dairy products, and fruit and vegetables that will either go off or rot.
• Reseal packing properly to protect the food. Use resealable bags, zip lock bags, or clips to close the bags properly,
• It is suggested that you once you’ve sealed the packets you put it in a container, so that you create a barrier from the outside atmosphere. (Reuse containers that food comes in e.g ice-cream containers etc)
• Buying food in the right portion sizes can assist in reducing food waste in the home.
• When buying larger packets of meat, separate it into correction portion size before freezing so that you don’t have to thaw the whole packet and only the amount you need at the time you need it.
Finally, do not throw away good food, feed someone else. You will feel a great joy when you share with others. Above all, show humanity, share with those who do not have and make this year’s Christmas food waste free.
Credit: David Mike Terungwa is the Team Lead GISEP and African Coordinator of Citizens Climate International.