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Today's Lesson... educating youths today to eliminate food waste tomorrow

This interview was first published on

In celebration of the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste last month, the UN Environment Program interviewed Yolanda Kakabadse, the former president of WWF International, and former Ecuadorian Minister of Environment, about the importance of integrating food loss and waste into national climate strategies, and the important role that youths play in the global shift towards sustainable food consumption. Here is an excerpt of the interview:

What role does youth play in the fight against food waste? UNEP is developing lesson plans on food waste education with the Edible Schoolyard project in the context of International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste. What are the best ways, in your experience, to inspire youth to develop sustainable food consumption behaviours?

I strongly agree that we need to build environmental awareness into school curriculum planning with the youth. WWF-US has developed a Food Waste Warrior program which seeks to educate students on the connection between the food on their plate and the planet. The Food Waste Warrior program helps students understand the environmental impact of their food by conducting a food waste audit and experiment with ways to reduce food waste in their school. Most adults don’t contemplate the connection our food has on the planet and the impact it has on biodiversity. By making this connection in educational programs, we create a positive impact on the next generation of adults and accelerate change.

COVID-19 has emphasized the need to build resilience in our food systems. How does WWF’s work to reduce food waste support a green recovery and a more resilient food future?

COVID-19 has caused massive disruptions to national and global food systems. The reconfiguration in demand for commercial food service businesses has amplified inefficiencies in our supply chain. We also know that food insecurity is going to be a major problem globally, while some countries are sending edible food to landfill. We must declare 2020 the “Year of No Food Left Behind”. This can be done by improving transparency and by creating digital food inventories. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of real-time data has led to an inability to locate and transport food from where it is, to where it is most needed. We must also expand our investments in developing countries on food banking and cold chain technologies.

What priorities do you see for the coalition of food waste leaders, Champions 12.3, in the run-up to the UN Food Systems Summit?

  • Encourage governments to commit to adding food loss and waste to NDCs.

  • Encourage governments to commit to public-private sector collaboration and data collection.

  • Put together more strategies to support developing countries, to complement WWF’s upcoming activities in a wide group of its country offices.

  • Mobilize large multi-national companies like Hilton, Marriott and KFC to be part of reporting schemes and country-level commitments.

A new report developed by UNEP, WWF, EAT and Climate Focus, focuses on how food system interventions should be better integrated into national climate strategies, highlighting the 12.5 Gt CO2eq opportunity to tackle food waste and sustainable diets, which have been largely overlooked in previous Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement. How are Latin American governments considering this opportunity and how can they be supported?

There are initiatives sponsored through the private sector, like Sin Desperdicio. These initiatives are important because they are encouraging public and private sector collaboration and showing value in better transparency and food loss waste target setting. Ultimately, each government needs to make the reduction of food loss and waste part of their NDC. It’s then imperative to see that the private sector and civil society are engaged and agreeing to publicly report food waste levels and set targets for reduction.

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