Every year on April 22, people all over the world observe World Earth Day to promote awareness and act towards protecting our planet.

In 2023, the theme of World Earth Day is ‘Invest in Our Planet’, emphasising the need for urgent action to address the environmental challenges that we face today. There is a growing need to devote our efforts, finances, and time for addressing climate change and other ecological problems.

Food loss and waste have been a major problem for both the developed and the developing world and the mammoth task of mitigating such losses and waste has been on the agenda of nations across the globe. The ever-growing global population coupled with expanding demand for food products has exerted extreme pressure on the natural resources and also impacting the climate and the food system.

Curtailing food loss and waste can help address food insecurity in underprivileged communities and mitigate climate change, as such losses and wastes contribute 8-10 per cent of world’s greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to severe weather events and climate change.

Approximately 17 per cent of the food generated globally from food service, households, and retail sectors — equivalent to almost one billion tonnes — is discarded annually. According to the Food Waste Index Report 2021 by the United Nations Environment Programme, between harvest and retail, around 14 per cent of the world’s total food supply is lost.

With a projected 68.8 million tonnes of food wasted each year, India accounts for 7 per cent of global food waste. The Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution Ministry reports that on average, an Indian household wastes around 50 kg of food per year, which is substantially lower than in many developed countries. Despite this, one out of every four malnourished individuals across the globe is from India.

In India, inadequate storage and cold chain facilities, social customs, insufficient consumer awareness, and the availability of bulk packaging and promotional deals are among the primary reasons for food loss. Given the circumstances, the government has launched a number of measures in response to the global demand of reducing food loss and waste.

The PM Kisan SAMPADA Yojana, launched in 2016, was aimed at developing modern infrastructure with an effective supply chain network that spans from the farm to the retail store. This initiative is expected to benefit the food processing industry, increase farmers’ incomes, reduce agricultural waste, improve processing capabilities, and boost exports of processed food products.

Eat Right India

In addition to this, ensuring that all residents have access to safe, wholesome, and sustainable food, the Eat Right India initiative 2018 was launched by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the central government to overhaul the food system.

Also, for supporting the sector’s overall development, including reducing post-harvest losses and increasing value addition, the Ministry of Food Processing Industries is entrusted with developing post-harvest infrastructure and processing facilities.

The Ministry uses numerous studies built on primary surveys to estimate post-harvest losses in a variety of agricultural commodities. A recent study by NABCONS 2022 under the supervision of the Ministry highlighted that fruits crops experience the highest percentage losses (6.02-15.05 per cent) followed by vegetables (4.87-11.61 per cent) and fisheries (Marine) (8.76 per cent).

Consequently food loss and waste have significant economic, social, and environmental impacts and give rise to food insecurity, raise food prices, and waste valuable resources like land, water, and energy, the severity of the issue makes it imperative for the government to adopt more policies to bring down loss and waste of food products.

Moreover, food waste generates methane gas, which is a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for causing climate change. Hence, decreasing food waste and loss is critical for accomplishing sustainable development goals and minimising the consequences of climate change.

Some potential actions or initiatives that can be taken include educating and raising awareness about food loss and waste among the citizens. Additionally, it is important to invest in the required infrastructure and technology especially at the critical areas of food supply chain where such losses are higher.

Moreover, it is the high time that we promoted not only sustainable consumption but also constantly and rigorously endeavour to implement measures and steps to reduce food waste. There is need to support the food recovery and redistribution initiatives so as to minimise food loss and waste and reduce carbon footprints for our planet earth.

Protecting resources

To sum up, World Earth Day 2023 provides a chance for people, corporations, and governments to act towards decreasing food loss and waste. Such acts can improve food security, reduce economic losses, and protect our planet’s resources.

Earth and its gifted resources are public goods and they are our collective efforts that can help towards achieving a more sustainable and equitable world. It is crucial to invest in our planet for safeguarding it and to lay the groundwork for a thriving future.

Saving food can be one way among many to save planet earth among many others. Let us start from it as it reminds us of our shared responsibility each time we greet, eat, and treat. The action starts from us!

Singh is Professor & Head, IIFT New Delhi; and Chaudhary is Ph.D scholar, IIFT New Delhi. Views expressed are personal