Infographic showing food waste

Solving World Hunger with ‘Ugly’ Produce and Leftovers

About a third of the planet’s food production never reaches our plates. Where does all that food go? In developed countries, most of it comes from consumers’ leftovers or from retailers, over-ordering and overserving in restaurants and shops.

A large amount of edible food also gets thrown away simply because of how it looks, reports National Geographic magazine in an article about food waste. For example, vegetables that are too small, misshapen or have scars and scratches won’t be sold at grocery stores.

In developing countries, food waste among consumers is very low. Instead, much is lost due to poor infrastructure or lack of storage/refrigeration facilities.

Impact on climate change

If we were able to take care of and use all this food, it would feed the earth’s 800 million hungry people – many times over. It would also reduce the impact on climate change; saving water, fertilisers, pesticides, fuel and land areas needed for agriculture.

According to the article, “If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, after China and the U.S.”.

There is a food waste movement on the rise, however. For instance, the United Nations aims to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030. Shops and restaurants have been reducing portion sizes and donating their surplus to charity in an attempt to reduce food wastage. American companies are delivering boxes of ugly produce direct to the customer’s doorstep.

And on an individual consumer level, there are food waste campaigners, like Tristram Stuart in the UK, who finds leftover food and creates new dinners out of them, writes books and participates in debates about food waste.

Reduced food waste by 25 percent

There’s a growing awareness in other countries as well. France recently passed a law banning supermarkets from throwing away spoiling or unsold food. In Denmark, there is a growing number of stores and restaurants serving meals made entirely from leftover food. (The country is a European leader in the food waste revolution, with figures showing that food waste has fallen with 25 percent in five years.)

Tips to decrease your food waste

In UK, the chef Jamie Oliver is also passionate about food waste. These are some of his quick tips:

  • Plan your meals for the week so you’re less likely to over-shop.
  • Understand the difference between best-before dates and use-by dates so you’re not throwing away edible food.
  • Embrace wonky fruits and vegetables.


One third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted. Globally, 46% of fruits and vegetables and 35% of fish and seafood are never consumed. In developing countries 40% of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40% of losses happen at retail and consumer levels. Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).

Source: FAO; National Geographic