Food banks help reduce emissions by 10 million tonnes, report finds

Food banks around the world have helped mitigate more than 10.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions by preventing almost 2.7 million metric tonnes of edible food being wasted, a new report has found.

Food banks help reduce emissions by 10 million tonnes, report finds

An estimated 821 million people across the globe go hungry

Research published by international non-profit organisation, The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), found that food banks operating across 57 countries have served 62.5 million people with meals that would otherwise have gone to waste.

GFN, which supports food bank organisations across 30 countries, studied data from a network of redistribution organisations including the European Food Banks Federation (FEBA) and Feeding America.

The study found that charitable food banks had prevented approximately 2.68 million metric tonnes of surplus food going to waste, which helped contribute to the mitigation of an estimated 10 million tonnes (10.54bn kg) of emissions annually – equivalent to taking 2.2 million passenger vehicles off the roads.

GFN’s president and chief executive Lisa Moon said: “The ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ report highlights the large-scale environmental and social impact of food banks, a community-based model that is positioned to address both the paradox of global hunger and food waste during a time when hunger rates are regrettably on the rise.

“This community-based approach must be considered as a pivotal, stop-gap solution in the fight against hunger, alongside public policy change that addresses the root causes of poverty.”

An estimated 821 million people across the globe go hungry, the report notes. Yet, in stark contrast, around 1.3 billion tonnes of edible food is wasted.

“The food bank model is uniquely positioned to address the paradox of global hunger and food loss and waste,” the report states. “Food banks are truly the ‘green’ hunger relief solution, engaged in a sophisticated, environmentally beneficial surplus recovery and redistribution system.”

The report calls on food producers, retailers and governments to adopt simplified labelling recommendations to overcome the fact that 20% of edible food goes to waste due to confusion with “best by,” “best before,” “use by,” and “sell by” dates on packages.

SDG alignment

Another key recommendation of the report is for organisations to view food waste through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – specifically Goal 2: Zero Hunger and Goal 12 Responsible Consumption and Production.

Champions 12.3 is the coalition of government, business and civil society leaders which aim to accelerate progress towards SDG 12.3 of halving global food waste by 2030 and is chaired by Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis.

The coalition has found that catering firms can save $6 for every $1 they spend on action to tackle food waste.

Food loss and waste account for $940bn in economic losses and 8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions each year. One-third of all food produced across the world goes uneaten.

Matt Mace

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