I gotta stop reading, or I’m gonna be more of an angry dad than angry dad Homer and become the Homer Hulk. What’s making me red with rage or green with gall this time? This recent report on Packaging World that America Trashes 40% of Food Supply.
How can this be? Food reserves are at an all time low; almost 1 Billion people, including almost one third of children in developing countries, are malnourished and hungry; and the cost of staples is rising to the point that people are rioting in some developed countries because prices are getting to the point where many low income families can no longer afford to put the basic staples on the table. All this in a time when world agriculture produces 17% more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70% population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kCal per person per day – which is 30% more calories than the average person needs. In other words, if (North) Americans (and other people in developed countries) weren’t so damn wasteful, we could, in all likelihood, feed the world!
According to the article, which is summarizing research from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Given that getting food to our tables eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the United States, we should not even be wasting 4% of our food supply, yet alone 40%! Not only is this costing us $165 Billion that we should be using to ship excess food to those in need, but the rotting food is emitting almost 25% of U.S. methane emissions.
According to the article, reducing losses by just 30%, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the level that the losses should be reduced by, could feed more than 50 million Americans. Given that one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables, this would almost eliminate hunger in America. Drop losses by 80%, which would get them to an almost acceptable level (assuming this was just the first step in an ambitious continuous improvement effort), and that would probably wipe out hunger in the Americas.
And, getting back to the title of the article, any producer, distributor, or retailer of food products that has waste in excess of 10% annually should be fined until waste levels are under that threshold. And then, they should be forced to reduce waste by at least 10% a year for the next five years until a maximum acceptable level of waste, which I’ll pin at 5%, is reached. We can take lean to extremes on the shop floor and virtually eliminate all waste (as everything is reduced, reused, and recycled), so there’s no reason we can’t take it to extreme in the food supply chain either.
Since feeding the world is one of the biggest contributions an organization can make to corporate social responsibility, this should be a top priority.