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Food Loss vs. Food Waste

By: Zahra Mardanyar


What is Food Loss vs. Food Waste? 

Food Loss is the discarding of edible foods at the production, processing, and distribution. (FoodPrint, 2021). Alternatively, food waste is the discarding of edible food at the retail sector and consumer level. This includes grocery stores, the hospitality sector, and individual consumer use (FoodPrint, 2021). 


Why does Food Loss and Food Waste Matter?

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAOUN) estimated that 690 million people were food insecure in 2020 (FAOUN,2020). Preliminary studies suggest that COVID-19 added 83-132 million people to the above total (FAOUN, 2020). If trends continue, the number of people going to bed hungry will surpass 840 million by 2030. Considering that waste and food loss contributes to 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted annually, there is no reason why so many people are food insecure. The United Nations suggests that if we save even a quarter of the 1.3 billion tonnes, it's enough to feed everyone (FAOUN, 2020). 


Who does it affect?

It affects everyone, from the farmers producing the food to the people trying to access it. Food loss affects farmers because their unbought produce goes to waste, increasing their loss. And loss inflates food prices for consumers that increase food insecurity (FoodPrint, 2021). A recent study by the United Nations explains that food affordability is key to food security (FAOUN, 2020). Discarded food also affects the environment because it degrades to a methane greenhouse gas when it ends up in landfills. Those gases are warming up the atmosphere, ultimately resulting in environmental issues.


Why should we care?

Regardless of the classification--food waste or loss--food prices are going up, making food inaccessible to many people. Whether we look at the developed or developing country, food loss and waste affect everyone to a degree but lower-income families the most.  There is no reason why anyone should go to bed hungry, considering how much food we make annually. This difference suggests that capitalist practices are hurting a large portion of the world population and the environment. In this frame, the consumers and the farmers are affected the most. This negative impact is that farmers are putting mass labor and money into making food that manufacturers don't buy. For this reason, farmers end up losing money at the production level. The inflation of food prices reduces consumers' options for nutritious food, and over time may result in food insecurity. 


Key Points

  • 1.3 billion tonnes of edible food go to waste
  • Saving a quarter of the 1.3 billion would be enough to feed everyone
  • In 2020, 690 million people were food insecure.
  • Food price inflation comes from food loss and waste, and it affects lower-income families; ability to purchase nutritious food. 
  • Food waste and loss affect everyone at every level of the food chain. 

Food waste is a Massive PROBLEM-HERE'S WHY. (2021, February 04). Retrieved March 20, 2021, from

FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2020. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the

World 2020. Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets. Rome, FAO.

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