This time we do better, Zero Food Waste Christmas.

2023 has been a rewarding year and we want to be zestful as we wrap it up with the festive season. 

From my childhood, it's a culture where joyous celebrations and feasts become synonymous with gatherings of family and friends. Amidst the laughter and cheeriness, there is a shadow impending over the festivities: food wastage. During this time, the temptation to overindulge and the pressure to try new cuisines often lead to an alarming amount of food being discarded. 

As disturbing as it may sound, food accessibility after this period will be a tussle to many; attributed to competing needs and reduced purchasing power. In Kenya it has been nicknamed a trendy name ‘Njaanuary’ with an average of 45 days(more days used to indicate long dry period ), the aftermath of real food waste and stretching budget extension limits.

Delving into the local and global impacts, and offering some practical solutions to curb this alarming trend.

The Scale of the Issue

The festive season witnesses a staggering increase in food consumption, contributing significantly to the global food waste crisis. In Kenya alone, research indicates that during festive periods, the country discards an estimated 5.2 million tons of food annually, broken down, that means every Kenyan averagely trashes 99kg of every year according to the Food Waste Index Report 2021 by UNEP, translating into a loss of 72 billion Kenyan Shillings (FAO, 2021). 

plastic bottle and food waste on bin that pile up to garbage pollution. Source: Getty Images.

Sub-Saharan Africa loses Sh 432 billion annually as a result of wasteful consumption. The peak happens at the closure of year festivities, in ways that seem negligible and yet sum into surging scenes. Concentration is in urban and peri-urban areas.

The Impact on Climate Change

The environmental repercussions of food waste are severe, with a direct impact on climate change. When food decomposes in landfills, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas with a warming potential much higher than carbon dioxide.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that food waste is responsible for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions (UNEP, 2021). This not only accelerates climate change but also exacerbates other environmental issues such as water scarcity, and biodiversity loss.

For a moment, think about the environment. Even at your vicinity, in your kitchen, decomposition of the leftovers emanates awful gases that are unfriendly. That is the hazard we unanimously release to the environment each time we perpetrate waste. 

The Economic Toll

Beyond its environmental impact, food wastage has severe economic consequences. The monetary value of discarded food during the festive season is not only a loss for households but also poses a significant challenge to economies.

According to the World Bank, the global cost of food waste is estimated to be around $940 billion per year (World Bank, 2020). This staggering figure underscores the need for urgent action to address the issue at both individual and societal levels.

It happens in way that people ride on impulse buying, acquiring what we have been yearning for the whole year long, waiving the budgets, going to high end restaurants. I agree you are promoting businesses but not finishing what you ordered triggered by excitement is the waste.

This can be perfectly be compared to excess inventory in the 8 Lean wastes.  Each waste no matter how small it may appear it has equivalence to economic backslide a household, meso and tertiary levels. It is what amounts to the above hang back data. 

Preventing Food Waste:

To combat food wastage during this festive season, individuals and communities must adopt a proactive approach. Meal planning is a key strategy that can help mitigate excess food production. By carefully planning meals and portions, households can reduce the likelihood of overbuying and subsequently wasting food.

Research by the @European Food Information Council emphasizes the importance of meal planning in reducing food waste, noting that it can lead to a 20% reduction in household food waste (EFIC, 2018).

This is an art that I believe if well embraced, food wastage can be kept at bay. It involves understanding what your household eating patterns and number, market seasonality, purchasing power, food preferences, nutrition and health status that guide on what to buy, when to buy and how much. 

Buying nonperishable in advance could prevent overstretching budgets, while sticking to the budget cuts off impulse buying. Having nutrition goals will help to keep your household to prepare and eat just enough. You don’t want to be on hard rocks post festive season.

Embracing Sustainable Practices

Embracing sustainable practices such as composting can divert organic waste from landfills, reducing the production of harmful greenhouse gases. Community-driven initiatives, such as food banks can also contribute to minimizing food waste. Consider sharing excess food with those in need.

It is a gesture of promoting harmony and peaceful coexistence when we all have nice food on our tables. Food is a social catalyst and festivity moments are some of the best times to express this. Let no food end in dustbins or compost.

Governments, organizations and businesses play a crucial role in fostering a culture of responsible consumption by implementing policies and initiatives that discourage wasteful practices. Well, FSPN Africa reminds you to be mindful about controlling food waste. It is the pertinent way to achieve food security and sustainably maintain our environment. Prepare the right quantity, preserve, reuse or donate. 

It is imperative for individuals, communities, and nations to address the issue of food wastage head-on. The alarming data on tonnage and monetary loss should serve as a wake-up call, prompting a shift in mindset towards more sustainable and responsible consumption practices. By incorporating simple strategies like meal planning and embracing sustainable practices, we can collectively reduce the devastating impact of food waste on our climate and economies, ensuring a more joyful and sustainable

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