12 April 2016

Green Groups Urge the Public to Avoid Food Waste from Farm to Table to Combat Climate Change

Reacting to a new study showing that cutting food waste could help fight climate change, local green groups have come up with some practical tips to guide Filipinos in reducing waste from farm to table.

“Food waste in a planet where many go to bed hungry is unconscionable.  With the release of this new study, we hope that more Filipinos will be made aware of the need to undo all forms of food wastage, which is essential to ease malnutrition and hunger and mitigate climate change in our midst,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  

Last April 7, scientists from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany conveyed that “reducing food waste would offer the chance to ensure food security, yet at the same time it could help mitigate dangerous climate change.”  Globally, it is estimated that some 1.3 billion tons of food -- worth US$1 trillion --  are wasted every year. 

The report “Food Surplus and Its Climate Burdens” found that “avoiding food loss and waste may counteract the increasing food demand and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agricultural sector,” stressing “this is crucial because of limited options available to increase food production.”

Lead author Ceren Hic said that “reducing food waste can contribute to fighting hunger, but to some extent also prevent climate impacts like more intense weather extremes and sea-level rise.”

Co-author Prajal Pradhan explained that “agriculture is a major driver of climate change, accounting for more than 20 percent of overall global greenhouse-gas emissions in 2010” and that “avoiding food loss and waste would therefore avoid unnecessary greenhouse-gas emissions and help mitigate climate change.”

“Up to 14 percent of overall agricultural emissions in 2050 could easily be avoided by a better management of food utilization and distribution,” the report said.

To encourage the public not to waste food,  partner groups of the EcoWaste Coalition have come up with a set of practical ideas to help reduce food waste from farm to table.

Among the groups who provided food waste prevention tips are Arugaan, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Consumer Rights for Safe Food, Health Futures Foundation and the Mother Earth Foundation.

To cut food waste at the farm during harvest time, Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan of Health Futures Foundation recommended the following: 1) ensure adequate and clean containers for the produce; 2) keep the harvested crops under the shade or in a clean spot that will not be disturbed by animals; and 3) make sure that the goods are arranged properly and transported in a clean and safe manner. 

At the policy front, Tan, a former health secretary, suggested that the Department of Agriculture should have more refrigerated storage warehouses (operated as a toll facility) to prolong the freshness of perishable products.  “At least for every district at the provincial level, there should be sufficient refrigerated and non-refrigerated warehouses supported by refrigerated vans and transportation system,” he added.

Rene Pineda of the Consumer Rights for Safe Food asked consumers to “be brave and buy ugly fruits and vegetables,” arguing that “we can derive more nutrients and assured of safety against chemical inputs when you buy local, indigenous fruits and vegetables, and other fresh produce from your local wet market.”  

Pineda added: “We are all blinded by vested food quality policies that corrupted the law of supply and demand. More than half of fresh produce end up as waste because it cannot pass the standard set by giant supermarket chains. Unfortunately, aesthetics is the only criterion of the said standard.”

Pineda likewise reminded consumers to “be wary of 'Unli Rice' in restaurants as one to two cups of rice is more than enough for nourishment.”  He explained that “consuming large amounts of rice per meal will not only make you sluggish and sick when you cannot burn loads of carbohydrates in your system, it contributes to food wastage as you get hooked to avarice.”

Breastfeeding champion and defender Ines Fernandez of Arugaan suggested that consumers go to the nearby talipapa (market) instead of going to the mall to buy fresh food cooking requirements for the family’s daily meals, nourishment and medicine.  “Go fresh and avoid processed food that come with extra packaging that often goes to the garbage bin,” she said.

At the dining table, it’s important to “remind everyone to get only what can be consumed and that not even a single grain will be left on the plate,” said entrepreneur and zero waste practitioner Baby Reyes of the Mother Earth Foundation.

“Set aside seeds of fruits and vegetables in small containers to produce seedlings.  After cutting portions to be eaten, plant stems of kamote tops and the like for propagation,” said environmentalist Joey Papa of the Bangon Kalikasan Movement.

Disaster risk reduction and preparedness advocate Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao said that household members should tell food preparers if they will eat at home or not to ensure that only enough will be cooked.  “If there is a leftover, use this for packed lunch the following day,” he said. 

Abinales also made a pitch for kitchen waste management at the household and village level.  Every home must have a container for kitchen and table scraps and every barangay must have a materials recovery facility where the collected food waste and other organics can be composted.  Households with fruit-bearing trees should also make it a point to harvest the fruits before they fall to the ground.  “Share the fruits with relatives and give the rest to your neighbors,” he said.

EcoWaste Coalition partner groups also identified these practical tips to curb food waste such as:

1. Check first what is on your cupboard and refrigerator before rushing to the market.

2.  Be a smart shopper: plan your menu for the week, enough to achieve the recommended daily allowance for nourishment, prepare a marketing and grocery list and stick to it to avoid impulse buy.

3.  Buy, prepare and cook only what you can consume at a time to avoid spoilage and waste.

4.  Only buy extra food items that can be safely stored.

5.  Store fruits and vegetables in right places to make them last longer.

6.  Eat less beef, chicken and pork, and eat more fruits and vegetables.

7.  Do not waste raw or cooked food.

8.  Be careful during food preparation to avoid food contamination and waste.

9.  Don’t over-serve; adjust the meal portions for kids as they eat less than adults.

10.  Use a serving spoon to avoid spoilage of leftover foods.

11.  Learn to save, recycle, repurpose and eat leftovers. if leftovers could not be helped and are left forgotten in the refrigerator, compost or feed to pets or birds visiting your yard

12.  Find new uses for damaged fruits and vegetables instead of quickly discarding them.

13.  Give food scraps to animals or turn them into compost to nourish the soil for healthier food.

14.  Segregate biodegradable from non-biodegradable wastes for composting. 

15.  Train how to do composting and how to grow your own food from your compost. 


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