Wellness & Natural Food

Food waste and sustainability: the role of the consumer

Written by Veronica Lavenia

Once the food was sacred. Until a few decades ago, in the Italians homes, it was customary to consume leftovers from lunch for dinner.  About 90% of households owned a vegetable garden.

Today, all this is a remote memory. More than half of the food we buy passes quickly from the refrigerator to the trash. The shelves of supermarkets, crammed with food (mostly “junk food”),  are the outburst of our superfluous desires. We are attracted by form rather than the substance.

We live bulimic ages, where everything is burned in a short time or discarded.

According to the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations), each year are wasted 1.3 billion tons of food, equal to 1/3 of the total production intended for human consumption.

There are two types of food waste: food losses and food waste. The first concerns losses which occur upstream of the food chain, mainly in the process of planting, growing, harvesting, processing, storage and processing agricultural raw. The second refers waste occurring during the industrial processing, distribution and final consumption.

Food waste is a worldwide phenomenon that creates enormous social disparities between those who waste and who have nothing to eat. FAO indicates that 222 million tons of food is thrown in industrialized countries, a figure equal to the sub-Saharan Africa’s food production.

FAO has also promoted a study, entitled “Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources”, the first systematic scientific investigation that has analyzed the impact of food losses from an environmental point of view, examining specifically the consequences they have for the climate, for water resources, land use and biodiversity.

But the global choices are the result of each individual. For this, each of us can contribute. There are small everyday actions useful to help reduce food waste:

  1. Go to the supermarket after eating, in order to buy only what is necessary;
  2. Whenever possible, buy seasonal food from local farmers;
  3. Cooking at home and avoid ready meals;
  4. Cook with what’s in the pantry, using leftovers and scraps (one of the most delicious Italian dishes, “Cacio e Pepe pasta” is made of only three ingredients).
  5. Serve appropriate portions.


These small measures also serve to improve our lifestyle. Waste of food and quality of life are, closely related. Today, we eat more than we consume. Food is processed, so less healthy compared to that produced on farms. We eat less fruit and vegetables

We worry about how many carbohydrates we eat in the morning or how many grams of protein contains industrial yoghurt, but we do not look at the origin of the products nor their expiration dates.

Today, the same foods our grandparents consumed (like milk) often cause us allergies or intolerances.

Give food the value it deserves is the essential step towards a more sustainable world, where food is a right for all and not a privilege for the few.

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About the author

Veronica Lavenia

PhD (former University academic). Italian based (food) writer and magazine contributor. Authors of six books (five cookbooks), some of her works have appeared and appears in the most popular International food magazine, as “Gluten-free Heaven”; "Vegetarian Living"; "Veggie Magazine"; "Lifestyle FOOD"; "Australian Good Food & Travel Guide; "Chickpea";" TML", among others. EVOO Communicator and consultant.