ELCA World Hunger

ELCA World Hunger staff and associates write about root causes of hunger, current events, and anything else they find pertinent.

Food loss vs food waste: which one is our struggle?

Posted on April 20, 2012 by Anne Basye

Just last week in my local high school’s cafeteria, eager young volunteers stationed themselves with scales in front of garbage cans. Weighing and examining every item about to be thrown away, they came up with a gross tonnage of discards and determined that only 5% of the “garbage” needed to go to the landfill. The other 95% could be recycled or composted.

While some of the compostable items were napkins and paper plates, most of it was food.

Food tossed into the cafeteria garbage can is considered food waste— food wasted at the level of consumption, that we prepare and eat in our homes, stores, and high schools, the ELCA Churchwide Office, our congregations, offices, and countless other  institutions.

Food loss, on the other hand, takes place at the level of production. Failed crops are a good example. So are shortages triggered by hurricanes, typhoons, droughts, war and violence, and diseases like potato blight or wheat rust.

Through ELCA World Hunger, we’re all committed to addressing food loss. But the food waste that takes place in our own kitchens? Invisible, unchallenged, it’s our dirty little secret. Some might defend it as a privilege of our prosperity! Food loss happens everywhere. Food waste happens in high-income regions. Although this chart is a little hard to see, just look at the proportion of red to blue. Blue is food loss. Red is food waste. We North Americans have the biggest red chunk. (To see a larger chart, go to a cool blog called Discard Studies: Exploring Throw-Away Culture, also my source for the food loss/food waste distinction.)

So, fellow hunger advocates. What’s the plan for making our food waste as visible—and as reprehensible—as the world’s food loss?

For including our own shame in campaigns that focus on the world’s shame?

For adding a photo of our excess to the gallery of photos of other people’s lack?

For including our own practices in the hunger equation?

For looking at ourselves?

I can’t wait to hear.

Anne Basye, Sustaining Simplicity


3 Responses to 'Food loss vs food waste: which one is our struggle?'

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  1. Barbara DeGrote said,

    on April 24th, 2012 at 8:27 am

    These good questions drive us forward. We want to tell the hunger stories, but we need to tell our own story as well. We stand convicted, but we don’t wallow in it. We’re Lutherans: law and gospel. Grace into action.

    You’ve heard Jesus’ command “Give them something to eat.” I ask – “Give us something to do.” Once convicted we need a plan of action. A churchwide call to “Meatless Mondays?” – Make the Wednesday night Lent “soup suppers” a year-long habit?

    Healthy families/communities create rituals. Rituals create unity. How can we establish well-grooved habits for our congregations (and families) that keep us connect to the issues and the answers? How might these shared actions help to build community and a sense of shared purpose at the same time? These are the driving question…

    How can “What’s in your wallet?” also include “What’s on your table!”

  2. Anne Basye said,

    on April 27th, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    “What’s on your table?” – I love it! Wouldn’t it be interesting to also ask how much food fell off the table on its way to or from us? Then we could poke into the food waste built into our system.

  3. on September 19th, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    IPhoneCine : Una web muy sencilla que tal vez no tenga un diseño demasiado llamativo,
    pero en la que podrás localizar películas de todos y cada uno de ellos de los géneros para disfrutar en tu dispositivo iOS.

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