This global campaign to change the culture of food waste seeks to challenge processes and actions which waste food at the national level and in major food preparation and handling sectors, including hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, and households. It was launched in January 2013 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and fair trade organiser Messe Düsseldorf in an effort to: galvanise widespread global, regional, and national actions and catalyse more sectors of society to be aware and to act, including through an exchange of ideas and projects.
The Think.Eat.Save website is an interactive portal to showcase ideas and provide news and resources. It describes activities taking place under the banner of the campaign, such as an event in Nairobi, Kenya, in which hundreds of kilograms of food that would otherwise have been wasted were rescued, cooked, and shared between hundreds of participants. Disc jockeys (DJs) and musicians provided the soundtrack for the preparation of "Disco Soup" and Disco Salad. To foster such experiences, the "take action" section has campaign materials including:
- A guidance document in PDF format.
- Logos in PDF, AI, and EPS format in Arabic, Chinese, English, Italian, Russian, Spanish, French, Portuguese.
- A flyer in PDF format in English and French.
- A poster in English.
- Website banners in HTML.
The "tips" section has tips for retail food production along the supply chain and consumer food preservation, a fast facts list, a section of links to reports on food and food waste, and a resource portal that includes such things as: an iPhone app on grocery shopping and food expiration dates and shelf life; an iPhone and Android-based app on filling restaurant tables with customers and another for recipe exchange; and an app that creates and sizes menus to household numbers. It has videos and links to articles on food waste reduction and management, such as "How Big Is Your Foodprint". The site also includes blogs, a photo gallery, quotes, and media materials. The Think.Eat.Save Twitter handle is: #thinkeatsave
The Think.Eat.Save challenge encouraged "food waste warriors" in high schools and universities around the world to uncover how much food is wasted in their communities and to take action by launching a team project to eliminate or to raise awareness about food waste. The top projects received a cash prize of up to US$5,000 to further support and implement their ideas.
According to the campaign, "food loss and waste refer to the decrease in mass (quantitative) or nutritional value (qualitative) of food - edible parts - throughout the supply chain that was intended for human consumption." It can occur through spoilage, spoiling, and discarding; much of the waste takes place at the retail and consumption levels. A study has shown that about one-third of all food production worldwide gets lost or wasted in the food production and consumption systems. "In industrialised nations, retailers and consumers discard around 300 million tonnes that is fit for consumption, around half of the total food squandered in these regions. This is more than the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa and would be sufficient to feed the estimated 900 million people hungry in the world." The disposal of food waste in landfills creates an additional environmental problem of methane production exacerbating greenhouse gas emissions because food waste, without light and air, cannot compost properly.
According to the campaign, simple actions by consumers and food retailers can cut the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year and help shape a sustainable future. For example, the website provides advice to consumers to reduce waste by: freezing food; following storage guidance to keep food at its best, requesting smaller portions at restaurants; eating leftovers – whether home-cooked, from restaurants or takeaway; composting food; and donating spare food to local food banks, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters. Retailers can carry out waste audits and product loss analysis for high-waste areas, work with their suppliers to reduce waste, offer discounts for near-expiration items, redesign product displays with less excess, standardise labelling and increase food donations, among other actions. Restaurants, pubs and hotels can limit menu choices and introduce flexible portioning, carry out waste audits and create staff engagement programmes, among many other measures.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Messe Düsseldorf. A full partners list is available here.
Think.Eat.Save website, April 22 2013 and April 11 2016. Image credit: Thomas Röhlinger/Global Green Kids