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Undernutrition, malnutrition and food waste. The ills of our society

Feb. 5, International Day Against Food Waste, perhaps the most shameful fault of human beings on which it is necessary, once again, to turn the spotlight on because despite many calls, urgings, and warnings, our planet suffers from an overabundance of thrown-away food. All this while steadily growing that part of the population that has to live with hunger and lack of enough food to be within the range of proper nutritional intake. Those who think the issue is simply an ethical one are wrong because waste costs money, and lots of it. It costs because it contributes to climate change, over-exploitation of land, (28 percent of the world’s available land is used to produce food that is then not consumed) and increases food insecurity in areas of the world already at risk of social inequality. Food thrown away unnecessarily, in the various steps from field to table, has an estimated economic cost of $750 billion, or 565 billion euros.

A gesture that demonstrates how little value we place on food, on the resources of the held and how little regard we have for those who produced it, often for a pittance. Every wasted food is a resource stolen from the earth and the hungry. It is bad eating habits, especially in rich countries, that are the main cause of this wastage: we buy far more than we need, we do not store products properly, and often ending up in the trash are foods that we believe to be expired, even though the label specifies “preferably by.” Yet according to the latest data provided by the FAO to produce food that will never be eaten emits 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide, more than twice the Co2 emissions caused by U.S. road transport. Also negatively affected by food waste are soil, water and biodiversity. All this while the world’s population increases and the demand for food increases. That the issue is very complex is obvious but that does not justify not trying to change one’s habits, each one in his own small way and as he can. We are therefore all indiscriminately urgently called upon to do our part. FAO has appealed to companies in the food sector to give away unsaleable food, perhaps because it has expired, put imperfect items on the market at a lower price, and allow consumers to buy only the quantity they want.

As ASeS, we tried to raise awareness with the traveling exhibition Foodpoor vs Foodpoor, a series of shots taken in Senegal, by photographer Mauro Pagnano, which we then compiled into a book. Images that need no commentary or description because those who observe them cannot remain indifferent to the striped faces, resigned eyes and hands deformed by hard work; photographs that move because they tell of those who, every day, are forced to live with very few resources and who are far from having a decent life. A small contribution to try to raise awareness of the risk of turning food into an obsession, a tool of status and boasting: foodporn, indeed.

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