This forward by Guido Barilla, President of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN), is part of the most recent issue of BCFN’s magazine, titled Combating Waste, which has been released for World Environment Day. Combating Waste is available for free download here.
Food waste is one of the most severe social, economic, and ecological pathologies among those facing our planet. For three reasons. The economic assessments are the most obvious. At a time in history when, every year, nearly one billion people are still dying of hunger or have to settle for inadequate nutrition, it is unacceptable that over a third of the world’s food remains abandoned in the fields or ends up in landfills. Then, there is a reason of an environmental nature. Today, we know that every product not only generates CO2 throughout its life cycle – and therefore has a carbon footprint – but by consuming water, it also has a water footprint that weighs heavily on climate change. Producing food that will never end up on a table – because in many cases it will be taken directly from the refrigerator or pantry to the trashcan – means unnecessarily aggravating the health of our planet.
But there is also a psychological reason, which I consider to be the most obvious symptom of this disease: the loss of the value of food. After years of agricultural industrialization, the decline in the prices of food has been unstoppable and this phenomenon has fueled the hopes of those who have believed that it would be possible to feed everyone on the planet. Unfortunately, the main result has instead been the loss of people’s perception of the real value of food.
Every day, all of us are careful not to waste what we attribute value to (time, money, talent), and yet, we waste a lot of food. This is not only due to logistics problems (transport, warehouses) or to overly-aggressive marketing by the seller (discounts, promotions, advertising). The reason should be sought in a cultural change that has characterized the last (few) decades of our history and has relegated that which mankind has always rightly regarded as a primary good – and thus, something to preserve and defend – to the role of a generic and ephemeral commodity.
If it is true that only those who do not give any value to food are prepared to waste it offhandedly, I hope that reading this publication will help all of us regain the awareness that food will always be the foundation of our existence and that caring for it is the only way to preserve our health and the health of our planet.