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Food waste in the age of hunger

  • 24 February 2017


This week the United Nations announced that more than 20 million people across four African countries face starvation in the coming months. UN Chief Secretary Antonio Guterres says there are currently four famine alerts including Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

The UN also told the news conference they had managed to raise just $90 million of the $4.4 billion needed 'by the end of March to avert a catastrophe'. Only the Somalian famine alert is caused by drought, while the remaining are classified as 'man-made food crises' due to conflict.

As the UN World Food Program struggles to feed the starving, they are also reminding people that where there is great need in the world, there is often great waste. In Australia, the Department of Environment and Energy estimates food waste is costing households $8 billion every year. This is twice what the UN predicts it needs to cease a famine in four nations.

What makes us so flippant towards the food on our tables? Some studies into culture suggest our attitude comes from the knowledge everything can be replaced quite easily. We don't think about recycling food because we know more food is never far away.

It's rare that we go to the shops and find out something is sold out. And if it never sells out, it must mean some is thrown out. Indeed bakeries, butchers and restaurants all commit masses of food to the rubbish bin every day. While some businesses give their leftovers to programs like Foodbank, there often is just too much food being produced, too quickly.

It's quite easy to negate the differences between food waste in Australia and its effect on food shortages elsewhere. It's easy to look at famine as something totally foreign and unrelated to our everyday cooking. This separation of sympathy is something the UN food program works tirelessly to bridge.

Famine is just one underlying factor of global injustice, but is one of the largest inhibitors to human progress. If food is an enabler in the world, then having access to it is a privilege. This privilege is opening our cupboards or fridges to a plethora of grocery items.

This privilege is reflected through our ability to watch TV shows where food can be judged as 'not good enough' based purely on 'presentation'. The ease in which we can produce food and throw it away reflects this inequality between ourselves and the poorest people in