The symposium, “Transforming Food Loss into Commercial and Nutritional Products: Innovations, Collaborations for Creative Financing and Supportive Legal Approaches,” included government, business, and non-government organizations. Moderated by Marsha Echols, a Professor of Law at Howard University and Director of the World Food Law Institute, the event brought together leading experts and advisors in food loss.
According to Vimlendra Sharan, Director of the FAO Liaison Office for North America, one-third of all food produced is going to waste. To address this problem, the symposium was broken down into three panels: food loss innovation, legal and regulatory approaches, and creative financing.
Panelists, Jean Buzby of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tony Pavel of Cargill, and Jackie Wincek of DC Central Kitchen spoke about models and innovations that transform food loss into commercial products.
Providing examples from different sectors, the panelists shared initiatives and technology that increase the shelf life of ice, improve harvest productivity, and repurpose consumer products that would have otherwise gone into a landfill. They also discussed the ways they have adapted their distribution models in light of COVID-19. DC Central Kitchen, for example, launched a Produce Bag Distribution program to provide nutritious produce to vulnerable populations, help move food along the supply chain, and fund farms.
Legal experts Donata Rugarabamu of the FAO and Katherine Meighan of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) focused on legal and regulatory solutions to food loss on an international level. They discussed the gradual transition from policy to comprehensive, national legislation and regulatory approaches. Meighan also spoke about IFAD’s Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF), launched in response to COVID-19. The RPSF provides resources to farmers to improve local market access, basic assets, target funding, and digital information and services to accelerate the economic recovery.
Rugarabamu explained that significant improvements in food security are due to reductions of food loss in early stages of the supply chain. She emphasized that interventions at early stages are important, and nations need innovative legislation to incentivize the reduction of food loss to support this.
And Geeta Sethi from the World Bank, J.B. Cordaro from Mars, Inc., and Dorothée Briaumont, director of Solaal, addressed the ways creative financing solutions can support food waste reduction.
Panelists proposed financial solutions that repurposed public finance and leveraged private finance. The most strongly suggested initiatives allow the private sector to invest in a way that addresses food loss and waste or facilities that bring together government and private sectors.
“Interventions to reduce food loss and waste are highly context-specific and must take into consideration a government’s policy priorities, selected commodities, and the structure of the economy so a one-size-fits-all doesn’t work,” Sethi noted. She emphasized that it is imperative to understand a country’s context to be able to create finance solutions that are successful.
Briaumont explained how Solaal works as an intermediary between farmers and charities to help French food producers donate food. Since 2018, the Ministry of Health has supported Solaal to boost the number of food donations in the French regions. For financial resources, Solaal relies on existing stakeholders in the agriculture sector, like branches of the farmers’ trade union and the regional chambers of agriculture.
“Reducing food loss and waste can help countries achieve their goal of improving food security while simultaneously reducing their greenhouse gas emissions from the food system. It is most critical that governments need to recognize that food loss and waste is a symptom of a food system that is not set up to deliver and that by addressing food loss and waste, it is in fact a solution,” Sethi concluded.
Ambassador Hans Hoogeveen of the Netherlands gave the closing remarks, reiterating the need for ethical models that minimize food loss and waste. Both public and private sectors need to work together to address the economic, health, and environmental impacts of food loss and waste, he said. Hoogeveen was optimistic that positive change can come about “if we dare, if we work on the basis of the global framework, if we go to the country level, and if we really sit together to be creative.”
“No more food to waste, no more time to waste.”