How are we going to feed the world in 2050 when the estimated population will be 9 BILLION!  It’s a question that many organisations are asking.

The world feels like it’s become out of balance, with about half of the global population living on $2 or less a day, and 70% of all fresh water being used to produce crops to feed animals for us to eat… if the whole world ate the amount of meat consumed per person in the US we would need a whole other planet to grow the crops needed to feed the animals (to feed the humans)…  it all seems a bit backwards doesn’t it?

I felt compelled to look at food waste myself in more detail after listened to the ISGP The Forum podcast presented by Aubrey Paris, Daniela Baeza and Cleo Warner, where they discussed Rachel Goldstein’s policy position paper titled Value Chain Efficiency A Sustainable Production, The Role of Uncommon Collaboration.  Ms Goldstein is the Global Sustainability Manager of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at Mars (yes the chocolate not the planet).  In her paper she sets out the biggest sources of food waste at different levels of the food system, and what corporations do to prevent food losses.

Aubrey, Daniela and Cleo mention that “..although production shortfalls could be met by expanding croplands, that option comes with a high environmental cost to biodiversity and carbon emissions.”  This is backed up by National Geographic journalist Joel K Bourne’s in his new book, The End of Plenty where he has crunched the numbers and claims that “we are farming ourselves out of food.”  Climate change could make half the world’s current farmland unsuitable; agriculture, ironically, produces a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

During the podcast the presenters highlight that “Decreasing food waste and increasing food safety are critical actions to maximize availability of food within our existing system, while reducing the environmental impacts on the resources and infrastructure.”  Indeed this is the way forward.  So lets take a look at some of the reasons we find ourselves in this situation and what some of the solutions could be.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the food we waste could feed ALL those starving in the world twice over.  So lets get on with it!

Ugly food rejection

The symptom of an ‘affluent’ and ‘throw away’ society, where perceived abundance has sent us all into a hypnotic mindset of wanting the next thing, the better thing and discarding the ‘out of date’ ‘old’ thing without thought.  Fashion is a big contributor to this phenomenon, in the UK we throw out £25m to landfill Wrap have a guide on how to live with sustainable clothing, but we are getting off track: back to food.

Part of this throw-out culture has lead to the selection of only aesthetically pleasing foods.  Vegetables and fruit are under the strict eye of factory pickers and machines and those who don’t pass the test are discarded.  Wasted! How judgemental!

Start up company Snact, have built their business around ‘ugly’ fruit, creating fruit leathers for a tasty quick snack pack.  Founders Ilana Taub and Michael Minch-Dixon both came from environmental backgrounds and are passionate about food sustainability.  Ilana told us, “…when we realised how much perfectly good edible nutritious food goes to waste in the UK and globally constantly, we decided we wanted to do something about it. It’s just insane that we would waste something that has taken so many resources to make – food requires soil, energy, water, labour, nutrients and so on – all of those get wasted too when we waste food.

The Snact website tells us that Britain has never wasted so much food, and goes on to say that in less than an average lifetime, we’ve gone from rationing to throwing out a third of all the food we grow. The latest figures conservatively estimate that every year, the UK bins £12.5 billion worth of food – much of which could be eaten.  Shocking stats.  At Purple Square we love the phrase Ilana and Michael have coined ‘Snactivism’ to Snack and Act!  (watch out for our blog special on Snact)

Domestic Food Waste

Love food Hate Waste is a super useful website, with tips from how to measure your rice, rescue a roast dinner to correctly storing your food.  They say “…with just a few small changes every day, we can cut food waste at home in half by 2025“.  So lets get going making these small changes and educating ourselves so that we waste as little produce as possible in the home, whether it’s waste from the fridge or the plate.

This seems to be an on-going consumer issue.  A study, conducted by the Waste & Resources Action Programme, found that the average UK family is wasting the equivalent of six meals a week. In the process, they are throwing away nearly £60 a month… apparently this is largely due to confusing expiry dates.

The UK’s Food Standards Agency have this useful video to help you understand food expiry dates:


Supermarket and Catering waste 

The Independent wrote an article September 2016 about the first UK Waste Supermarket, selling only food that would otherwise have been thrown into landfill!   This revolutionary supermarket was set up by food waste campaigners The Real Junk Food Project, customers of the shop are invited to ‘pay as you feel’, it’s a proven lifesaver for struggling families in the area.

The founder of the Real Junk Food Project, Adam Smith, told The Independent that he hopes to be able to open a warehouse in every city to sell produce which would have gone to waste.

Fuel for School is also the work of The Real Junk Food Project, where they deliver surplus bread, fruit, vegetables and dairy products to schools.  Smith has spoken at a Tedx event about how to REALLY feed the world, definitely one to watch.

Doncaster company ‘Food Aware‘ are also taking food destined for landfill and redistributing to people in need.  Feed People Not Landfill is their tag line, which says it all.

The Real Junk Food Project also take food surplus from food photography shoots and filming shoots, like the shoots we produce here at Purple Square Productions, where vast quantities of food are needed to get the right shots.

As we head into 2017, food economies like these enterprises should start to become the normal, saving £££’s in other areas of our



Western societies want to eat ALL food ALL year round… so we ship it in from wherever it IS in season, regardless of the consequences, to either our planet or our bodies.  There is perhaps an argument to eat more locally produced food, not only to support the local economy, reduce transportation pollution and many other benefits but to reduce the waste that occurs post harvest, at each step of the process; roots to plate.

Malaysian paper The Straits Times published an article written by Suzanna Pillay titled Curbing food Waste At Source, she shares the shocking statistics of food waste at each stage from harvest to home.  Pillay reports “Post-harvest losses for fruits and vegetables were around 20 to 50 percent broken down into; production at 10-20 percent, field handling 5-10 percent, post-harvest handling 2-20 percent and distribution 5-15 percent, with an estimated loss of between 3 and 20 per cent to the average consumer….”

The Meat Machine

According to Borne, author of The End of Plenty, “… if the west halved its meat consumption, improved animal and crop waste recycling, and used biofuel crops, we could feed 9.3 billion by 2050 without destroying more forests.”

However it’s not just the problem with land animal farming, at present, marine capture fisheries yield 110–130 million tonnes of seafood annually. Of this, 70 million tonnes are directly consumed by humans, furthermore, a huge 30 million tonnes are discarded and 30 million tonnes converted to fishmeal.  There isn’t enough space to go into the damage the fishing trawlers are doing to our marine life, how much of their catch they have to throw back into the ocean and how by 2048 the worlds oceans are likely to be devoid of wild fish…. that’s another blog.

This uncomfortable truth is explored in frightening detail in the documentary  ‘Cowspiracy’:  The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.  An eye opening documentary.

So… how ARE we going to feed the world in 2050 when the estimated population will be 9 BILLION!  


We already have the answers and it’s not rocket science…. it would seem that implementation and attitude are the biggest stumbling blocks.

But it’s not someone else’s problem, it’s not for us to sit back as consumers and expect the big corporations, institutions and organisations to address the problem for us.

We each have a responsibility to do our part and contribute to the solutions.