November 1, 2023

Food waste and loss is everyone’s responsibility

South Africa grapples with a staggering food waste problem, with farmers, retailers, and consumers discarding over 10 million tons of food annually.

This issue is deeply intertwined with the country’s economic challenges, as evidenced by a GDP growth rate of 0.4% in the first quarter of 2023 and a staggering unemployment rate of 32.9%. World Bank data reveals that approximately 55.5% of the population lives at or below the national upper poverty line, and 40% of households face food insecurity.

Addressing food waste is crucial for South Africa, as it directly impacts both social and economic aspects. Food waste results in the loss of labour, capital, water, energy, and land resources used in production, endangering the sustainability of food production.

A report from the Department of Science and Innovation and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research highlights the stark reality of hunger in South Africa, where approximately six million individuals, representing 11% of the population, endure hunger. This situation demands urgent action.

Catering businesses can play a pivotal role in combating food waste and supporting those in need, says Bradley Hall, from facilities management company, Servest Catering business unit. To tackle this pressing issue, catering businesses must implement innovative practices, including efficient inventory management, portion control, and creative menu planning to minimize surplus food that often goes to waste. Bradley emphasizes the importance of adopting pro-local strategies, such as sourcing fresh produce from local farmers. Furthermore, forging partnerships with local farmers can lead to improved inventory control and decreased overproduction.

These strategies not only reduce waste, but also create a market for local farmers and offer customers a genuine farm-to-fork experience. Effective meal planning is also crucial in reducing food waste.

Farmers are vital in the fight against food waste. They can take several key steps to effectively combat this issue, including implementing efficient harvesting practices, investing in proper storage facilities like cold storage, adopting sustainable farming practices such as crop rotation and reduced pesticide use, fostering strong relationships with local markets and retailers to ensure efficient distribution, and utilizing innovative preservation methods like drying and canning to prevent spoilage and minimize waste. These measures not only reduce losses, but also contribute to a more sustainable and efficient food supply chain.

Individuals and businesses alike must take an active role in addressing food waste. Donating food before its best-before date to soup kitchens or homes for the needy can make a substantial difference in building a more equitable food system, and ensuring that no one in the country goes to bed hungry.