2050…Will there be enough food for all of us?
More than 820 million people go to bed hungry every night and 1.3 billion people experience food insecurity (no regular access to nutritious and sufficient food).
Meanwhile, there are more than 40 million deaths yearly related to obesity and its associated diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), globally.
This means one thing… we are doing a poor job of protecting the physical basis of our very survival!
The world’s population is rapidly expanding, and it is estimated there will be close to 10 billion people on our planet by 2050. The question is, will there be enough food in 2050? Will there be access to high quality foods for all of us?
Why food industry is one of the biggest factors affecting the environment:
- Contributes approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions
- Occupies about 40% of global land
- Uses 70% of freshwater
- Is the largest factor threatening species with extinction
All of the above increase the risk of irreversible and catastrophic effects on Earth. There is an urgent need to promote diets that are healthy while having low environmental impacts.
Definition of sustainable diet:
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), sustainable diets are defined as “those diets with low environmental impacts that contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable, nutritionally adequate, safe, and healthy, while optimizing natural and human resources.”
See below how you can make more sustainable choices on an individual level.
Shopping tips to minimize food waste
- Prepare weekly menus and use shopping lists in order to know what and how much of ingredients to purchase.
- Don’t shop hungry, which can influence how much you purchase.
- Purchase exact amounts whenever possible: single fruits or vegetables (rather than pre-bagged) and whole grains, nuts, and seeds from bulk bins.
- When choosing fresh fruits and vegetables choose the brightest, freshest looking produce that you can. If it has already softened or started to discolour, the ripening process has begun and will only accelerate at home.
- Be aware of fruits that continue to ripen with time (climacteric) versus fruits that do not ripen further after harvesting (non-climacteric).
- Climacteric fruits include apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes. Store these on your counter at room temperature until desired ripeness, and then refrigerate.
- Non-climacteric fruits include bell peppers, berries, cherries, citrus (oranges, lemons, limes), cucumber, eggplant, grapes, watermelon.
- Consider buying “ugly produce”. These are misshapen fruits and vegetables that may get thrown out because they do not meet the standards for appearance.
- Buying frozen food can help to reduce food waste. Sometimes, fresh produce is used before or after its peak point regarding nutrients and taste, when compared to frozen. Also, frozen food results in 47% less household food waste than fresh food.
Storing food to minimize waste
- Keep leftovers in the front.
- Try to prepare vegetables as soon as you purchase them.
- Store vegetables & fruits in labelled containers in clear view.
- Remove visibly aging produce and use immediately, as it can emit gases that speed the ripening of other produce.
- Many foods freeze well, up to a year. Remember to label the date it was stored.
Reconsider foods that are usually tossed out
- Revive wilted lettuce or sagging vegetables. As long as these foods do not have clear signs of spoilage (discoloration, mold), they are worth saving. Because most vegetables contain about 90% water that is gradually lost during storage, adding back water can perk them right up. Soak them in a bowl filled with ice water for 15 minutes.
- If fruits begin to brown or become mushy, add to smoothies or baked goods.
- Add sagging vegetables that can’t be revived to soups or casseroles.
- Toast stale bread and place in a food processor to make breadcrumbs or toss with olive oil and garlic powder, and bake to make croutons.
- Eat skins of produce whenever possible: potatoes, cucumbers, kiwi, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, apples.
- Grate citrus skins like oranges and lemons into sauces or desserts, or onto fish and poultry.
Even if we can reduce food waste over time with greater awareness some waste is still inevitable. Composting is beneficial to the environment and will help to keep it out of landfills. Compost also enhances soils with nutrients and reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
We must be aware that our food choices ultimately impact more than just ourselves. In the end, what’s good for the planet is good for us too.
Clinical Dietitian- Nutritionist, MSc
Chen, C., Chaudhary, A., & Mathys, A. (2019). Dietary Change Scenarios and Implications for Environmental, Nutrition, Human Health and Economic Dimensions of Food Sustainability. Nutrients, 11(4), 856. doi:10.3390/nu11040856 [Accessed 5 January 2021].
Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations. Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock. October 21, 2014. Available at: http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/resources/en/publications/tackling_climate_change/index.htm.
Harvard T.H. Chan. 2021. Sustainability. [online] Available at: <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sustainability/> [Accessed 5 January 2021].
Harvard T.H. Chan. 2021. Sustainability. [online] Available at: <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sustainability/food-waste/food-waste-home/
US EPA. 2021. Composting At Home | US EPA. [online] Available at: <https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home> [Accessed 5 January 2021].