FILIPINO households do not consume all the food on their dining tables, and the resulting wastage has grown into a problem that requires serious attention.
This finding is highlighted in the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).
According to the study, rice, vegetables and meat are the three most wasted foods in Filipino households. The bigger the household, the higher the waste. And rural households squander more food than their urban counterparts.
In terms of income class, households in the highest one-fifth or quintile had a bigger wastage than the poorest quintile.
“This implies that households incur more wastes when higher quantities are purchased, which most probably are not consumed and end up being thrown away due to spoilage.” the FNRI noted.
The study reflects a glaring disconnect: millions of Filipinos go hungry every year, but the average Filipino wastes 86 kilograms of food annually. The vast amounts of food that go uneaten and thrown away would have been enough to feed hungry stomachs.
Food waste is a global malaise. By one estimate, as much as 40 percent of food, or 2.5 billion tons, around the world is wasted every year. The wastage is enough to feed 3 billion people.
Food waste impacts the environment as well, and is already recognized as one of the drivers of climate change. Estimates suggest that 8 to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed.
“The increasing and persistent global demand for food is also driving fertile land useless while contributing to more land degradation and deforestation, which as a result, destroys our precious natural habitats and biodiversity, limiting the services that they provide and disrupting entire ecosystems,” according to one study.
The Philippines is struggling with its own food security woes. We ranked 69th among the 119 countries in the Global Hunger Index of 2018, indicating a “serious level of hunger incidence.”
Fifteen percent of the population experience “severe food anxiety,” the highest rate among five Southeast Asian countries.
Based on monitoring by the World Food Program last year, one out of 10 Philippine households is food insecure. The problem is most acute in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Eastern Visayas and Soccsksargen, three of the country’s poorest regions.
Addressing food waste must be a multisectoral effort if it is to be effective. The United Nations has made curbing food waste a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target. SDG 12.3 aims to cut by half per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030.
In its 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggested increasing efforts “to measure food and inedible parts wasted at retail and consumer level and track food waste generation in kilograms per capita at country level.”
The World Food Program noted that Filipino households with heads who only had a primary or elementary education “are more likely to be food insecure.” That could be a cue for the government to include food security in school curriculums to raise family awareness on managing food needs.
Food manufacturers and dining establishments can do their share by donating surplus food to charitable and social work institutions instead of throwing it out as garbage.
FNRI Director Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa stressed the need for new strategies to focus on reducing plate waste, which is beneficial from a nutritional, economic and environmental point of view.
Training people to prepare and choose less food in terms of portion and meal size reduction and formulating policies on waste reduction could be an effective strategy in preventing additional food waste, Angeles-Agdeppa said.
The FAO is urging governments to rethink how to reallocate their budgets “to make them more cost-effective and efficient in reducing the cost of nutritious foods and increasing the availability and affordability of healthy diets, sustainably and leaving no one behind.”
It will be in the Philippines’ best interest to heed FAO’s suggestion.
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