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The Case for a National Strategy

Reducing Food Loss and Waste – Fighting Poverty

With the demand for food expected to grow by 60% by 2050, food security has become a global issue of the utmost importance.

And yet one third of food is lost or wasted costing the global economy US$1 Trillion annually. This loss generates around 8% of global greenhouse emissions and wastes almost a quarter of all the water used in agriculture.

And here in green, pure Aotearoa we annually waste over 20 million loaves of bread; 6.5 tonnes of potatoes; 9,000 tonnes of leftovers – the list goes on. Unfortunately, in New Zealand the true scale of food waste and its impacts have generally not been well understood. As such, the opportunities provided by food waste reduction have remained largely untapped and under-exploited.

Sixteen years ago, The Global FoodBanking Network was created to ensure that people around the world have access to food and in so doing, minimizing food waste. The mission was simple: launch, strengthen, and sustain a global network of local food banks to support communities when they need it most. This mission still guides all the GFN accredited members – FBANZ is the NZ Accredited Member of GFN.

The belief that hunger alleviation is a food bank’s primary job is not wrong, but it’s incomplete. Food banks are also at the forefront of fostering healthier communities and a healthier planet through the reduction of food loss and waste. By recovering quality surplus and edible food, redistributing it to communities in need, and preventing it from sitting in landfills and emitting greenhouse gases, food banks play an important and innovative role in ensuring that edible food ends up where it is intended: in the hands of our communities.

What is food loss and waste? Why is it a problem?

The combination of food loss - when food is lost after harvest but before retail - and food waste - when food is thrown out at the grocery and consumer level, is a serious problem, especially when 768 million people around the world currently experience hunger.

Of all the food produced about 14 percent is lost between harvest and retail due to surplus, cosmetic blemishes, and inadequate storage or transportation, and another 17 percent of total food production is wasted in grocery stores, restaurants, and homes.

This paradox of millions of tons of food decomposing while millions of people go hungry causes significant damage to our communities, our economies, and our planet. Food loss and waste erodes food security, decreases food availability, and contributes to higher food prices. It also causes economic losses at every step of the supply chain as the resources used to produce food—water, land, energy, and capital—are squandered when that food is lost or wasted.

Lastly, food loss and waste pose a threat to our planet. As lost and wasted food decomposes in landfills, ultimately intensifying climate change and causing further fractures in our food system.

How food banks help reduce food loss and waste.

The problem of food loss and waste is enormous, but food banks have proven to be a sustainable, green solution to this problem by partnering with farmers, distributors, food retailers, and food services to redirect wholesome, surplus food to people experiencing hunger. The impact of this food recovery work, when quantified, is staggering.

At FBANZ in the calendar year 2021, we redistributed over 1 million kgs of food – resourcing over 3 million meals for the needy and at-risk in the communities we serve; and importantly reducing CO2 emissions by almost 830,000 kgs.

The Social Impact Value of FBANZ efforts during 2021 amounted to just over $25 Million!

A Strategy for the Future

Reducing food loss and waste is not new, but strategies for doing so efficiently and economically have been enabled by food banks’ leadership all over the world. Through collaborations at every stage of the food supply chain—from farmers, distributors and wholesalers, processors and manufacturers, and grocery retailers and food service—food banks ensure that healthy food is procured quickly, safely, and at little-to-no cost, a ripple effect that benefits everyone involved. Furthermore, by prioritizing this innovation in tandem with hunger alleviation, food banks help advance progress on important global goals, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3, which aims to halve per capita global food waste and reduce food losses by 2030.

Food banks are a vital part of our food system, not only because they serve millions of people facing hunger, but because they are uniquely situated to tackle the problem of food loss and waste through innovative strategies that benefit everyone.

Foodbank Aotearoa New Zealand is at the forefront of this endeavour – right here in Christchurch and through the South Island communities we serve.

  • We believe that access to food is a basic human right, not a privilege

  • No one should go hungry or face barriers to accessing food

  • Mobilize communities to advocate for system changes that will positively impact those experiencing poverty

  • We collaborate with all to eliminate food insecurity, and advocate for solutions to end poverty

It is because of these that Foodbank Aotearoa New Zealand is seeking a long term, bi-partisan, whole-of-government strategy to underpin the efforts of the public, private and non-profit sectors in addressing the current waste situation. The aim of this strategy would be not only to meet the food relief needs of every food insecure person in New Zealand and therefore reduce poverty, but also start by addressing food wastage. There is currently no cohesive policy platform underpinning the goal of individual food security and food wastage in New Zealand. Unfortunately, since the initiative is of such vital importance, the dots need to be connected at a national level.

At FBANZ we recognize that this is an ambitious vision.

A key to success needs to be a cooperative approach - public, private commercial and non-profit sectors to deliver a food relief system that is more efficient and effective, and most importantly, achieves better outcomes for all vulnerable Kiwis – and addresses the food wastage issue.

This can only be achieved by working collaboratively towards agreed goals, something that will only happen with a major ‘driver.’ It is our advocacy that Christchurch local government should become proactive in this and lead the initiative which ultimately could become the national policy. It has been done before – Canada is a primary example*.

The development of an ultimate national strategy presents a unique opportunity to align and inspire a variety of stakeholders to deliver valuable benefits to our New Zealand society. It will not be just a few ‘organisations misbehaving and being noisy’ who make it easy for central government to react without the necessary due diligence – and not always in the best interest of the sector. Rather it would be an all-encompassing initiative.

Meaningful coordination requires communication, resources, processes, and accountability. This cannot be accomplished without facilitation and management. Therefore, it is proposed that a structured working group (not another Hui!) be formally established to oversee the development and execution of the Strategy.

We now need the get-up-and-go!


MONTREAL - June 17, 2019 - Food Secure Canada welcomes the release of the long-awaited ‘Food Policy for Canada: Everyone at the Table’ announced today by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau.

“Canada needs a more healthy, just and sustainable food system that ensures everyone’s right to food. The very establishment of a federal food policy, with associated budget lines, is an important first step in realizing that vision,” says FSC Executive Director, Gisèle Yasmeen. “Food Secure Canada has been calling for government leaders to develop a joined-up national food policy since our founding in 2001, and we are encouraged that the new Policy takes an integrated approach.”


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