Food waste consistently ranks as one of the biggest hurdles to overcome if poverty is to be eradicated.
In Britain - the worst perpetrators of food waste in the European Union - 4.2 million tonnes are wasted each year, equating to almost an entire meal per person each day. One-fifth of the food that enters British homes gets thrown in the bin, and around 60% of it could have been eaten. Another country guilty of this is China, where $32 billion worth of food is wasted. The problem is increased in China, however, by the fact that nearly 128 million Chinese live below the poverty line and don’t have enough food.
It’s not just the Chinese and British who are uniquely wasteful when it comes to food. Global wastage levels remain high, with UN research stating that even if the amount of food wasted worldwide fell by 25%, there would be enough food to feed those who are at serious risk of dying from starvation.
China has experienced real economic growth over the past 60 years, and industrialization is inherently linked with increased food wastage. As disposable incomes rise - many cities in China have boomed over the last couple of decades - taste becomes more important, with people willing to throw out food that’s not fresh.
In fairness, the Chinese government has recognized that it must change its ways. Last year, Wu Zidan - the nation’s deputy director of State Administration of Grain - launched an austerity campaign, mandating that all restaurants and hotels do not waste food. This alone could have huge implications. It’s been reported that China’s restaurant industry throws out enough each year to feed 200 million people, enough to feed those living in poverty, and a few million more.
The initiative was publicly endorsed by Yuan Longping - more commonly known as the ‘father of hybrid rice’ - and was also picked up by a number of prominent media publications. Longping called for the Chinese government to make it illegal to waste food, fining anyone who was caught doing it.
The campaign, which was initially put into motion in 2013, was recently relaunched by the Chinese government, with officials keen to combat the food waste problem through public education. Yet that alone is unlikely to solve the problem. Bloomberg recently stated that the food buried in airless landfills create more greenhouse emissions than every country barring the USA, highlighting the importance of infrastructure.
As more developing nations become industralized, food wastage is likely to increase around the world. This would imply that education is not the pivotal factor, but people’s accessibility to food. It’s logical for people who have less food to cherish it more readily than those who can eat in excess. This leaves the Chinese government - as well as many other governments around the world - in a tricky situation. The initiatives which they implement are not only important for greenhouse emissions, but for the huge amount of people who still live in poverty.
An incredibly important issue moving forward, the Chinese government must do all they can to make sure that the industralized parts of the country do all they can to help their compatriots live comfortable lives.