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Sunday, May 26, 2024

David Terungwa: Why we must avoid food waste this Christmas

The United Nations estimates that one in three people in the world do not have access to sufficient food to lead a healthy life. In Nigeria, it is no longer news that the prices of food have skyrocketed majorly due to high inflation, the effects of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread insecurity. Despite this situation, 40% of food produced in Nigeria goes to waste mostly during the production-to-processing stages of the food supply chain.

Food waste
Food waste

Food waste at festivities is very alarming – at Christmas many of the food prepared will never be eaten. Many of us don’t give a thought to the quantity of food we waste daily, weekly, monthly and yearly with an increased tons of food waste during festivities including Christmas.

Food waste in this context refers to Food left over on your plate; too much food prepared and not used all generally land up in the dustbin/dumpsite. Food wastage is actually an unfair attitude, particularly in a nation where we have children who spend days with empty stomach. Our leftovers could be someone’s first meal.

For every food you waste and throw away there is a stomach that is hungry and going to bed without food.

In addition to money being wasted, discarded food has a negative impact on our environment as it contributes to global warming. Consider the energy and natural resources expended in processing, transporting, storing, and cooking food.

Food waste that ends up in landfills produces a large amount of methane – a more powerful greenhouse gas than even CO2. For the uninitiated, excess amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane, CO2 and chloroflurocarbons absorb infrared radiation and heat up the earth’s atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change.

Food waste also represents a great waste of fresh water and groundwater resources. with agriculture accounting for 70 percent of the water used throughout the world.

The food packaging of many food products is excessive. There is a growing awareness that the packaging is environmentally unfriendly because it is non-biodegradable and invariably just gets thrown away and lands up on our landfills (or on our streets as litter).

Possible Solution

A lack of planning by or for home cooks often leads to a waste of food. Here are some tips to help you waste less food:

  • Food management begins at home – before we even do the shopping.
  • Making better use of leftover items, creating menus with existing food items, and making less food is first prize when it comes to reducing food waste.
  • Check what stockpiled ingredients you have – whether tinned, frozen or fresh. Use them before purchasing more so that they don’t expire or spoil.
  • Reducing consumption is better than reusing.
  • Reusing is better than recycling or composting.
  • Reducing, re-using, recycling and composting are better than disposing of our food waste.
  • Home composting is also a great way to make use of peelings and other compostable food waste. See our page on composting.
  • Recycling compostable food waste into compost is a more cost effective method of waste management. From an environmental perspective, home composting does not generate the amount of methane produced by landfills.
  • The “use by” label generally applies to fresh meat and fish, dairy products, and fruit and vegetables that will either go off or rot.
  • Reseal packing properly to protect the food. Use resealable bags, zip lock bags, or clips to close the bags properly,
  • It is suggested that you once you’ve sealed the packets you put it in a container, so that you create a barrier from the outside atmosphere. (Reuse containers that food comes in, e.g ice-cream containers, etc)
  • Buying food in the right portion sizes can assist in reducing food waste in the home. When buying larger packets of meat, separate it into correction portion size before freezing so that you don’t have to thaw the whole packet and only the amount you need at the time you need it.

Finally, do not throw away good food, feed someone else. You will feel a great joy when you share with others. Above all, show humanity, share with those who do not have and make this year’s Christmas food waste-free.

By David Mike Terungwa (Team Lead, GIFSEP and Africa Coordinator Citizens Climate International)

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