Five Key Facts Linking Food Waste and Hunger

Cambodian woman smiles as she drives a motorbike loaded with green leafy vegetables
Sourcing school meals ingredients from local farmers like this one in Cambodia can help reduce food waste. Photo: WFP/Samantha Reinders

Global hunger isn't about a lack of food. Right now, the world produces enough food to nourish every child, woman and man on the planet.

But nearly a fifth of all food produced each year is squandered or lost before it can be consumed.

In many rich countries, this food waste happens in the kitchen - when we prepare foods that go uneaten, or leave food to spoil in fridges and kitchen cabinets.

For millions of people in developing countries, this food waste happens at harvest time. Poor storage facilities in farms lead to pest infestations and mould ruining crops. Lack of access to technology and markets means many farmers are forced to watch their crops rot in fields as the labour and financial investment required to harvest them is often unavailable.

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Along with chronic poverty, conflict and economic shocks, food loss is one of the root causes of hunger worldwide. Food loss also represents a waste of the very resources used to produce food - such as land, water and energy.

Here are some basic facts (source: UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2024):

1. One-fifth of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to one billion meals a day.

2. The total cost of food loss and waste for the global economy is estimated at roughly US$1 trillion.

3. Food loss and waste generates up to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions - almost five times the total emissions compared to the aviation sector.

4. Sixty percent of food waste happens at household level.

5. Food waste is higher in hotter countries, both at the household level and in the post-harvest phase, with high temperatures affecting storage, processing and transportation of food.

A WFP staff member stands next to a woman farmer in a purple shirt in a brown field in Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe, WFP helps smallholder farmers like Margaret (pictured) improve their post-harvest handling and storing techniques to reduce food losses. Photo: WFP/Cynthia Matonhodze

Cutting global food waste in half by 2030 is one of the UN's top priorities. In fact, it's one of the organization's 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Imagine what one farmer could do if all that food was not wasted - and now imagine what that would mean if this were to happen with millions of food-insecure farmers. Lack of skills to handle and store harvested crops is one of the biggest challenges smallholder farmers face. The World Food Programme (WFP) helps farmers address this problem through training in improved post-harvest handling methods, and subsidized water- and air-proof storage equipment.

WFP is also tackling food waste by boosting access to local markets. This includes sourcing its school meals with locally grown crops and working with communities to build or rehabilitate roads and bridges, as well as storage facilities.

But each of us can individually play a part in reducing food loss and food waste, not only for the sake of the food but for the resources that go into it, too.

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