Experts Discuss Innovative Solutions to the World’s 1.3 Billion Ton Food Waste Crisis

The latest interviews from FutureFood 2050 share creative strategies for controlling food waste that can help offset the challenges of feeding a hungry, growing planet

June 19, 2014

CHICAGO–Reducing the world’s 1.3 billion tons of wasted food every year may hold the key to sustainably feeding 9 billion people by 2050, according to new interviews from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)-sponsored FutureFood 2050 initiative.

One-third of the food produced for human consumption around the world gets lost or wasted each year, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Those 1.3 billion tons of wasted food could feed 1.25 billion people on the planet per year —a staggering number at a time when global food security concerns are rampant. IFT developed an info-graphic that shows the enormity of the issue in the United States.

“So much attention is paid to increasing global food supplies over the next several decades,” said Tristram Stuart, a world-renowned food waste activist who is profiled in FutureFood 2050’s latest interviews. “But we waste a third of the world’s food supply already, so one way of tackling food security and the environmental impact of food production is to implement the many ways to more efficiently use the food that we already produce.”

Recently the alarming numbers behind this worldwide dilemma have become frequent headlines in media and food circles. But far less attention has been devoted to exploring the solutions that can transform the issue of food waste from statistics to success stories.  

The food waste trailblazers profiled for FutureFood 2050 this month include:
  • Doug Rauch: The former president of Trader Joe’s has turned one of the most fundamental (and wasteful) principles of retail—always in-stock, cosmetically desirable food—on its head by selling imperfect and past-its-labeled-prime food in a grand supermarket experiment
  • John Floros: A leading academic at one of the United States’ preeminent agricultural colleges has launched a new international food waste innovation center that invests in solutions spanning small village fields to mega-city tables
  • Elsje Pieterse: A South African scientist is “farming” a renewable and completely unexpected resource, fly larvae, as a virtually no-waste source of animal feed
  • Tristram Stuart: A leading food waste activist who advocates a multi-pronged approach to addressing the issue, which includes everything from changing the ways that companies feed pigs to digging in supermarket dumpsters for still-edible food
FutureFood 2050 will break new ground by looking at the innovative, often surprising ways that scientists, activists and entrepreneurs are tackling the epidemic of global food waste. Interviews will go beyond the numbers to explore the complexity of this issue, which starts with optimizing crops in the field and ends with challenging consumers’ deep-rooted perceptions of waste and product acceptability.

The solutions profiled in this month’s interviews range from the traditional (an innovation center dedicated to worldwide waste reduction) to the unconventional (a multi-country movement to sell “ugly fruit” to cash-strapped consumers) and the truly unexpected (celebrating fly larvae as a low-waste source of livestock feed).

Although the FutureFood 2050’s food waste experts profiled agree that many of their solutions require a significant change in cultural expectations about food and waste, they emphasize that tackling a 1.3 billion ton issue can only be successful with fresh thinking and a willingness to embrace new ideas. Their solutions are always creative and occasionally controversial, particularly as they discuss topics as diverse as GMOs, “freeganism” (foraging on food discarded by supermarkets) and the tastiness of maggots.

FutureFood 2050 is a multi-year program highlighting the people and stories leading the efforts in finding solutions to a healthier, safer and better nourished planet to feed 9 billion+ people by 2050. Through 2015, the program will release 75 interviews with the world’s most impactful leaders in food and science. Food waste is the third installment of FutureFood’s interview series.

Next year FutureFood 2050 will also debut a documentary film exploring how the science of food will contribute solutions to feeding the world.

For more information, please visit FutureFood2050.com to subscribe to monthly updates, learn more about the project and read the latest news on food science.

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About IFT

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Institute of Food Technologists. Since its founding in 1939, IFT has been committed to advancing the science of food. Our non-profit scientific society—more than 18,000 members from more than 100 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professionals from academia, government and industry. For more information, please visit ift.org.

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