What the world eats and wastes

This has been reblogged from 

As the 2013 Archibull Prize starts to roll out in 40 school across Queensland, NSW and the ACT we are putting the final touches on the 2013 curriculum with it currently being scrutinised by our primary and secondary teacher panel.

One of the questions we ask the students is about waste and why is there so much. We ask them to write a blog about how food wastage occurs, discuss poor food purchasing choices and suggest sustainable strategies to reduce wastage. If Eisenstein is right then this is a very important topic for discussion

Half the world wastes enough food to feel the other half

This fascinating book the ‘Hungry Planet: What the World Eats’ by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluision is an inspired idea, to better understand the human diet and explore what culturally diverse families eat for a week.


The photographs in the book feature pictures of families from different countries at their dining tables with a week’s worth of food purchases. You can find all the images here. We soon learn that diet is determined by different things in first and third world countries.

Fascinatedly for me from the picture it would appear first world problems in Australia would include things like just how many bottles of 2 litre soft drinks can you fit into a plastic shopping bag before it breaks. No idea how they carry all that water. This must be a family that eats together and shops together.  For my dairy farm its a bit of a worry their bottled water consumption seems to leave their milk consumption for dead. However I imagine the egg and livestock industry would be pleased to see this table. Not sure if this Aussie family is getting their five serves of fruit and veg per day though. What I do know is my grocery list looks nothing like this yet my health is nothing to skite about either.


Interestingly soft drinks and how to get them home in one piece without spraining your back would appear to be an even bigger problem in Mexico but it would appear they are getting their five serves of fruit and veg per day


In Britain which appears to be supporting the wealth of the confectionary giants a common topic of concern would be “does chocolate really cause acne”?


Enough of the flippancy. This picture of a family in Chad is very sobering


This image below outs the US and Iceland as the countries with the biggest wasters in the world. I wasn’t game to do the sums on OZ and covert the metrics to whatever prehistoric system the measure ‘pounds’ come from. Com’on pounds, shillings and pence or was that pounds and ounces went out of fashion when I was six.  According to this article the average Australian wastes 200kg of food a year (see footnote)


I look forward to hearing what next gen has to say on the topic of waste and wise food choices because my generation doesn’t seem to have any answers to this very wicked wicked problem


The average Australian wastes 200kg of food a year – yet two million of us also go hungry. Why?

This article makes some very strong points. Some that particularly resonated with me

  • 75% of Australians believe their country is immune to poverty and as such do not think of hunger as a problem.
  • The pantry of Australia’s national food relief effort is a low profile outfit called Foodbank, a national operation using a big business model to channel surplus food from the food and grocery industry onto welfare networks. Despite the important expression of community altruism and other frontline welfare agencies, the problem of hunger is far from being solved. In 2011, Foodbank distributed 21 million kilograms of donated food and groceries, making the equivalent of 28 million meals to help 75,000 people a day through a network of 2,500 welfare agencies.
  • Foodbank relies upon a workforce of 3,500 volunteers to operate its warehouses across the country. Occasionally, state governments and councils provide grants for specific projects but largely, the organisation survives on donations. Only recently the Australian government has started to contribute $1 million a year to assist Foodbank in providing vulnerable Australians with what most of us consider as a human right, the right to safe and nutritious food.
  • This should prompt some hard questions. It is common for liberal market economies to off-load welfare responsibilities from federal and state governments to the voluntary sector and Australia is no exception.
  • Allowing hunger to be de-politicised in this way fosters the notion that it should fall to non-government organisations to answer pressing social problems, while governments are best at fostering self-reliance and self-provision.
  • The silence of the Australian government around domestic food security not only confirms its denial of the issue, but indicates a failing welfare system.
  • Also at issue is the environmental consequences of rampant food wastage. It is now reported that about 4.5 million tonnes (200kg per person) of food are wasted every year in Australia. The annual retail value of Australian food waste is estimated at more than $5 billion.
  • Among the reasons at the supply end are blemishes or imperfections, over-ordering or short shelf life, while consumers demand perfectly shaped products and plan their pantries poorly.
  • Food waste in Australian landfills is the second largest source of methane emission – a gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. If one tonne of food waste generates 3.8 tonnes of CO₂ equivalent emission, then Australian food waste is responsible for 15 million tonnes of CO₂equivalent emissions every year.
  • Despite this happening in its own backyard, Australian policy makers still have ambitions to contribute to global food security initiatives. For instance, the 2010 budget committed $464 million over four years to assist countries in Asia, Africa, and in the Pacific region to build community resilience and improve agricultural productivity.
  • But if Australia refuses to consider hunger as an issue of public policy and continues to consistently undermine adequate financial assistance to its own people, a nagging question remains about the nature of its ambitions for addressing food security beyond its shores.
  • How should we understand the Federal Government’s proclamation of rights to adequate food, clothing and shelter in international law, while hungry Australians are receiving support from privately run charity organisations?
  • If the problem of hunger in wealthy and technologically advanced Australia is to be eliminated, it must be recognised as a political question and a fundamental issue of human rights and distributive justice.

As you can see a  great deal of this article resonated with me. I say lets tidy up our own backyard before we jump over the fence

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life