In recent years, the population of Latin America and the Caribbean has seen a worrying increase in hunger figures, especially among the poorest of the region. However, food insecurity in the region, as in the rest of the world, is a problem that does not stem from deficient food production.
According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) estimates, Latin America and the Caribbean could feed more than 1.3 billion people, i.e. twice its population.
So, where does this problem arise from? A relevant factor in this matter is food loss and waste, the prevention of which is fundamental in the development of agri-food systems.
In 2019, the UN General Assembly established 29 September for the first time as International Food Loss and Waste (FLW) Awareness Day, recognising the positive impact that reversing food loss and waste can have on people's food and nutrition security.
Four years after the establishment of this day, we must take stock of what we have achieved, look ahead and take immediate action to reverse a complex scenario that has economic, social, environmental and moral costs.
According to FAO figures, 13% of the world's food is lost in the supply chain, from post-harvest to retail, and a further 17% is wasted in households, food services and retail. The highest levels of losses occur in nutrient-rich foods such as fruit and vegetables (32%), meat and fish (12.4%).
Inefficiencies along the food chain and in consumption also have a major impact on the environment. Preventing food loss and waste can therefore help to combat hunger and the consequences of climate change through greenhouse gas emissions.
Current scientific evidence points to innovative solutions that support family farming, distribution and supply systems, drive circular bioeconomy actions, and target investments and funding to develop monitoring and early warning systems to prevent FLWs, as well as comprehensive legal frameworks aimed at prevention. But it is still not enough.
In late August, the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, based in Santiago, organised a discussion on how to prevent and reduce food losses and waste in the context of food security and nutrition, with the participation of the Vatican, representatives of the Chilean government and FAO.
This conversation explored ideas and solutions to move from reflection to action and to understand that ending the phenomenon of food loss and waste has a direct impact on the lives of people and society as a whole.
The way forward is clear: to address this situation it is imperative to work in a coordinated and multi-sectoral way to achieve results quickly. Governments, businesses, civil society and academia must join forces, generating evidence, investments in infrastructure and technology, among other measures to address this situation.
Much remains to be done. Food loss and waste must be addressed from an ethical, political and scientific perspective. We are all responsible for this challenge.
Photo. The food that is lost and wasted in Latin America and the Caribbean could feed more than 1.3 billion people, twice its population. © Riccardo De Luca / FAO