UN Estimates World Wastes 19 Percent of Its Food

    02 April 2024

    A United Nations report says that even with hunger being a problem, the world wastes about 19 percent of the food it produces.

    The report said the waste adds up to more than 1 billion metric tons of food. The writers of the report believe that the food waste could have helped the estimated hundreds of millions of people living with hunger each day.

    The estimate appears in the U.N. Environment Program's (UNEP's) latest Food Waste Index Report. It aims to follow progress on a 2021 U.N. goal to cut worldwide food waste in half by 2030.

    In this file photo, garbage is loaded into a landfill in Lenox Township, Mich., July 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
    In this file photo, garbage is loaded into a landfill in Lenox Township, Mich., July 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

    The U.N. said the number of countries taking part in the report nearly doubled from the first one released in 2021. The report is co-produced by the UNEP and an international charity called the Waste and the Resources Action Program.

    The new report found that the biggest share of wasted food – about 60 percent – came from households. An estimated 28 percent came from food service operations, such as restaurants.

    The researchers estimated each person wastes about 79 kilograms of food yearly. They said that is equal to at least 1 billion meals wasted daily across the world.

    Clementine O'Connor is a food waste expert at the UNEP and a co-writer of the report. She described the results to The Associated Press as a "travesty." O'Connor said that while the problem is widespread and very complex, she believes it can be helped through effective "collaboration and systemic action."

    The report comes at a time when the U.N. estimates 783 million people around the world face long-term hunger. The Israel-Hamas war and ongoing violence in Haiti have added to the problem. Experts say those conflicts have caused people in Gaza and Haiti to near a severe lack of food, called famine.

    Food waste is also a global concern because of environmental pressures linked to production. These include the land and water required to raise crops and animals as well as pollution caused by food waste.

    Experts estimate food loss and waste currently produces eight to 10 percent of worldwide greenhouse gases. The report says, if food waste were a country, it would rank third after China and the United States.

    The report's writers said there was notable growth in efforts to reduce food waste in low- and middle-income countries. But they said wealthier nations may have to lead international cooperation and policy development.

    The report said food redistribution – including donations of leftover food to food banks and aid groups – will be an important part in fighting food waste among food sellers.

    One group involved in such a program is the nonprofit Food Banking Kenya. The nonprofit group gets leftover food from farms, markets and other places and "redistributes" it to schoolchildren and people who want food. Food waste is an increasing concern in Kenya, where an estimated 4.45 million metric tons of food is wasted each year.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    travesty – n. an action aimed at doing good, but that does something wrong or unjust instead

    collaborate – v. to work together in a cooperative way

    greenhouse gas – n. a heat-trapping gas that can keep heat in the Earth's atmosphere

    redistribute – v. to take things from one group and give them to another group