“In a world full of plenty, hunger should be a thing of the past”

9uary 2022

February 5th marks the day against food waste which, as the Economia Circolarewebsite reminds us, is one of the key goals of the 17 SDGs to be achieved by 2030. Valeria Morelli writes a very interesting article in which she describes a series of apps to reduce the amount of food discarded and wasted each year and, ultimately, to lower the level of emissions that pollute the planet. In short, throwing away less food eliminates the problem of overproduction, logistical costs, energy waste etc. at source. More careful and controlled management of food resources helps us to do good for nature.

         This brilliant article has given me food for thought, literally. The first is that something does not quaffle. 'Man is what he eats', said Feuerbach, and it goes without saying that if lack of access to adequate food resources makes it impossible to save the planet; as a result, inventing hi-tech toys to avoid squandering it is impossible. Contrary to the above article, I believe that reducing food waste is primarily an ethical and moral, rather than ecological, imperative. We throw away less food, pollute less and plant more trees to feed animals and insects, but half the world's population suffers from food insecurity, if not chronic shortages... It makes no sense.

         From the perspective of someone who has lived comfortably for 25 years without apps on his smartphone, I would say that the fight against waste starts with how we view the world and how we think about the interrelationship between us and nature. It is sheer luck that we are born in a part of the globe where we can choose from at least three breakfast alternatives and almost infinite lunch and dinner menus. Yet, as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us, our existences are all interconnected, and the life that flows in animals and plants, which we respect and protect, is the same life that lives in us. This is why I think that using an app to store the expiry dates of purchased food is only a consequence of conscious spending, and not the lifesaver that allows us not to throw away the surplus. In particular, it might be useful to ask three questions: do I really need this? Can I do without it? Can I buy it another time?

         In this regard, the Banco Alimentare, which has been working for decades to raise public awareness of the value of food, reminds us that the FAO estimates that about 3.3 billion tonnes are produced by food waste. It is estimated that if waste were a state, it would be the third largest emitter, after the United States and China. In addition to CO2 pollution, the squandering of food is causing ever-increasing deforestation, which leads to a great loss in terms of biodiversity.

         However, thanks to targeted campaigns, general awareness of the problem of food wastage has made huge headways. And not only on a personal level, since, as we have already mentioned, it is a collective and shared responsibility, which takes the form of small daily measures (organising shopping, not exaggerating with quantities, paying attention to labels and expiry dates, storing food correctly).

         Even at the company level, various solutions are beginning to be adopted to improve the entire production and consumption chain: investments in post-harvest infrastructures, the use of management software to organise orders and surpluses, the calculation of the precise quantities of foodstuffs that make up meals, for example for company and school canteens... There are also associations, such as Too Good to Go, which have made it their mission to fight waste: through an app, it is possible to buy - directly from retailers - food that is not sold (in the catering circuit, supermarkets and grocery shops), and that would otherwise be thrown away, in the form of surprise boxes, at a very advantageous price.

          So technology, through the apps and tools spawned by Smart Industry, can make a more than valuable contribution to the fight against food waste. But everything has to start with us.

         And one of the simplest and most immediate ways to help combat a complementary aspect of the problem, albeit at opposite ends of the spectrum, namely world malnutrition, is just a mouse click away: Unicef has come up with 'Share the meal', an app for donating meals to populations in various parts of the world affected by wars, famine and natural disasters. Each meal donated (0.80 eurocent) corresponds to concrete help for a family, and you can choose how many meals to give and whether to make the donation constant or one-off. It is done conveniently from the phone via paypal or credit card. Then there is Free rice, a quiz game designed with the same aim: giving rice to people suffering from food shortages while educating users in a fun way. In fact, for every correct answer you earn ten grams of rice to donate to the WFP (World Food Programme), to change the lives of those suffering from malnutrition.

I can’t stand people that do not take food seriously - Oscar Wilde