FOOD TRENDS

FIGHTING FOOD WASTE VIA KIDS: FAO TURNS ‘CONSUMERS OF TOMORROW’ INTO ADVOCATES FOR SUSTAINABILITY

One-third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste. The financial costs of food wastage amount to around $1trn per year. And if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the US. At the same time, it is estimated at one in nine people are hungry or undernourished. Combatting food waste is a challenge that, in developed countries, requires behavioral change. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) believes education plays a key role in inciting anti-food waste action, and is turning its attention to children to help combat the problem. According to Oksana Sapiga, FAO Communications and Partnership Consultant. “Children are the agents of change,” “It’s very important to invest in their education if you want to create cultural change and transform food systems [to enable] more affordable, nutritious and healthy diets for all.” Of course, behavioral change should be backed by ‘right’ and ‘solid’ policies, as well as the correct kind of food market and strategies, she told delegates at a recent European Food Forum (EFF) event. When all these elements are combined, it’s really the consumer that has the ‘ultimate power’ to either mitigate or worsen the issue. “Therefore, it’s very important that we help and support consumers to make the right decisions and choices.” And that includes the ‘consumers of tomorrow’: children. To do this, first we have to understand the socio-economic factors influencing food choices and consumption behavior. All this requires research…in order to provide relevant information. Only then can we speak in the language that will resonate with consumers – when we understand what it is they are missing and how best to present the information and packaging that have the biggest impact,” “While communication is very important to build this awareness and general understanding of the issue, it is the involvement and active engagement of consumers that will… sensitise consumers to the issue and help them act differently.” Change can be driven through sensitisation and engagement, including emotional engagement. “This is the strongest way to drive action.” One of the FAO’s education initiative focuses on raising awareness in schools to reduce and prevent food waste. The agency has rolled out this campaign, titled ‘Do Good: Save Food’, across Albania, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Portugal, Turkey, and Ukraine. The FAO, together with the International Food Waste Coalition, and in collaboration with sociologists, educational specialists as well as food safety experts, developed an educational package to promote food waste reduction amongst children in primary and secondary schools. The package has four guides for a particular age group between 5-14 yrs. and over. It has designed to change the children’s behavior by explaining them what food waste is, and why it is important to reduce it in their everyday lives. Exercises can be incorporated into teachers’ lessons plans or into extra-curricular programs. “It’s highly adaptable and flexible, so it can cater to different needs, including time availability, and the age and knowledge of the children.” Activities are based around ‘very simple actions’ that are ‘easy to implement’. These include meal planning, preparing the food shopping list, regularly checking the contents of the fridge, and reusing leftovers to prepare a new meal. “These are very simple steps, not something complicated. [The idea is to] motivate children with quick results, so they can see that they can [make a difference].”