Tips for tucking into SA’s enormous food waste problem
Out of the 31 million tons of food available in South Africa every year, one third (about 10 million tons of food) is lost to waste in some form or another across the food supply chain.
To put this into perspective, that’s enough to fill the Cape Town Stadium more than five times over every year. The energy that was used to grow, process, transport and store that food could power the City of Johannesburg for 4 months and the water would fill over 600 000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The biggest culprits are wasted fruits and vegetables. These account for the largest share of this water, as they’re primarily grown under irrigation. Fruits and vegetables generate the highest levels of waste, where over 50% of the produce is wasted along the supply chain (primarily at the processing and packaging stage). Together with cereals, these two food commodity groups are responsible for 70% of the food waste in South Africa, and are a clear priority for reducing the quantity of food waste.
But this doesn’t mean you need to stop purchasing food. The key thing to understand is that much of the food we waste can be avoided.
If your household enjoys regular meals, here are five ways you can make a difference:
- Prepare the right quantity of food to minimise having to discard cooked food and if you do cook too much - freeze leftovers immediately. Almost all cooked dishes can be frozen, alternatively just put it in the fridge for the next day.
- Dish out sensible portion sizes so that food is not left on plates.
- Try to get wiser at food shopping, including better meal planning, checking stock in the fridge before shopping and not falling for bulk deals (e.g. “buy-one-get-one-free”) if unlikely to consume the large quantities.
- Buy local and seasonal produce wherever possible (food that has travelled far or been stored for long periods is likely to be associated with greater waste).
- Buy food from local markets where produce tends not to have the stringent quality standards for size and appearance required in supermarkets.
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