• Despite rising world hunger, we still throw away one billion tonnes of food a year.
  • The WWF has 10 suggestions for how we can eat more sustainably.
  • We need to eat more plant-based foods and avoid plastic packaging.
  • The UN is convening a summit next year to improve global food systems.

World hunger continues to rise, yet we are still throwing away a billion tonnes of food every year. It’s not too late to switch our habits, though, and make a positive impact.

“It is time to change how we produce and consume,” says United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “As a human family, a world free of hunger is our imperative.”

The UN has convened a summit next year to work out how to improve food systems, while the World Economic Forum’s Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good virtual event, from 23-24 November 2020, is billed as a key milestone leading to the UN summit.

In the meantime, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has suggested 10 practical steps we can take as individuals.

1. Eat more plants

Raising animals to eat causes 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and consumes scarce water and feed. Meat production has more than tripled in 50 years, so eating plant-based foods will help rebalance the environment.

2. Eat more variety

Just 120 plant species are grown for human consumption, while three-quarters of the world’s food supply comes from 12 plants and five animals. The WWF has proposed 50 new plant-based foods we should eat.

3. Use your voice

With two billion more people to feed over the next 30 years, WWF is urging everyone to put pressure on their governments to take action to ensure there is enough sustainable food for everyone.

4. Find out about your fish

Food waste consumption world hunger sustainability fish fishing
The WWF suggests buying lesser-known fish species like saithe, pollock and hake.
Image: Wikimedia:Joe Laurence

Overfishing is a threat to a food on which three billion people depend for nutrition. Fish fraud, or deliberate mislabelling of fish, is used to disguise the sale of endangered species. DNA tests found that a fifth of the fish on sale in the United States last year was falsely labelled. The WWF urges consumers to only buy from reputable sources – and eat less popular species.

5. Cut the waste

Between a third and a half of the world’s food is never eaten. Food sharing charity Olio says $1 trillion is wasted on food that’s thrown away, while the WWF points out that if food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US. Buy only what you need and freeze or preserve what you can’t eat.

Food loss and waste
The FAO have some tips on reducing waste.
Image: FAO

6. Grow your own food

It’s been estimated that food in the US travels an average of 1,640km. Home-grown food, for those that can achieve it, is a healthy and tasty option. What’s more, it certainly has a smaller carbon footprint than buying from a supermarket.

7. Look for sustainable products

Look out for labels showing your food is sustainably produced. For example, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) promotes and certifies sustainable production, guaranteeing this common food ingredient has been produced without causing environmental harm.

8. Get Giki

This app, one of several you can download, contains ethical and sustainability information on over a quarter of a million foods. You can check the sustainability of your fish using the Seafood Watch app, or find local vegan restaurants using the Happy Cow app.

9. Pass on plastic

Always shop with a reusable bag and avoid products with unnecessary plastic packaging. Ask retailers to stop using plastic. Less than 10% of plastic packaging globally is actually recycled and it is estimated that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the sea.

10. Eat what’s in season

Wherever you live in the world, there is always some food in season. If you’re not eating seasonal produce, your food may have travelled across the world to reach you. WWF says eating seasonal food is not just sustainable but it supports local producers, too.