Most of us have heard many times that one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted (Quinton, 2019). There are many practical ways to avoid food wastage that also help reduce food insecurity. Setting up community food hubs and food banks is one of several effective ways we can reduce food insecurity that does not demand massive overhauls to our current food system (Carolina Cupboard, 2023).
Having a community food bank helps distribute food that would have otherwise gone to waste. (Food from the Heart, 2019). Food banks redistribute donated foodstuffs among community members, much like at clothing banks (Food from the Heart, 2019).
What is Global food insecurity?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a “lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household, to live an active, healthy life.” (Feeding America, 2023). At its core this is a socioeconomic issue. Household food insecurity is sometimes a temporary situation, but longer term for others. In the United States alone, the number of people who experience food insecurity is over 34 million, out of which 9 million are children. (Feeding America, 2023).
At the global scale, conflicts, political instability, and war disrupt food production, distribution, and access. They can also displace people, making it difficult for them to access food as they move out of necessity. The Russia-Ukraine war is one such example. The COVID-19 pandemic massively disrupted the food supply, which affected food security in many regions. Extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and storms can damage crops, reduce yields, and increase food prices. The droughts in Africa and Europe in 2022 created massive and complex food security issues, as did the floods in Pakistan. Natural calamities act cause shortages in supply and increase food prices worldwide.
Before the Transition
In order to permanently alleviate global poverty and hunger and address the issue of proper food distribution, we need to massively overhaul many parts of our current global agriculture and food system. Actions like replacing meat farming with hyper-productive organic small scale eco-farms, and innovative solutions to find nutrition in unlikely places, such as focusing on kelp and seaweed farming, involve massive industrial scale changes to farming and eating that are difficult to achieve because they rely on so many people and organisations to change. Could food banks be part of the answer in the meantime?
Food banks Reduce Food Insecurity By Turning Waste into Surplus
Although many people go hungry, the food needed to feed them is still already produced. People go hungry because the food already produced in the world is distributed badly. Creating an overabundance in some countries is seen as more important than getting that same surplus food to desperate people. We need solutions to resolve this contradiction. Luckily, increasing the number of food banks in every country may help us feed many more people. Food banks take food that would otherwise be wasted, and redistribute it, making them effective at the local level.
We don’t need complicated theories to understand why food banks are effective. They simply take waste and turn it into surplus. The reason that food banks are so critical to reducing food insecurity now, before we have achieved the much needed and massive overhauls to our global food system that involve changing our diet and scaling back farming, is because they work what what we currently have. They create a simple surplus of the food our current system produces that would otherwise go to waste.
Food Banks Canada collects surplus food from farmers, retailers, and food manufacturers. Then they distributes it to among its network of food banks and other food programs across the country. They have quite a large and sprawling network. Volunteers make sure to meet the community’s needs in each city or region. By providing food to those in need, they help to alleviate poverty. They ensure that individuals and families have access to the basic necessities they need to survive.
Food Bank Singapore takes deposits of surplus food from various sources, including industry and individual donors, and distributes it to other individuals and families in need across the country. In the beginning, this organisation conducted a survey in which they interviewing food-insecure Singapore citizens. They then studied the data and strategised their food distribution plan. Now, Food Bank Singapore raises awareness about food waste through their ‘Food Drive’ program and advocates for more sustainable food systems. Food Bank Singapore aims to reduce food waste and address the root causes of poverty and hunger in Singapore. They examplify of what is achievable by understanding the data when it comes to hunger.
The Future Is More Food Banks
While food banks may not be the sole solution to addressing food insecurity and food waste, they can still play an important role in the future of our food systems. As we have seen, food banks serve as a valuable resource for addressing emergency food needs and providing food assistance to vulnerable populations. Food banks were especially needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Food Banks are part of preparing for emergencies in food security, and the COVID-19 pandemic was a steep learning curve. Data analysis could play a huge role in helping food banks with inventory management, if a similar crisis were to occur in the future.
To truly transform our food systems, we badly need a more comprehensive approach. We need an approach that addresses the root causes of food insecurity and food waste. This includes policies and programs that promote sustainable and equitable food systems, such as investments in local food production, distribution and access. We also need initiatives that address poverty, social inequality, and environmental sustainability. We should see food banks as a bridging entity in the midst of the larger transformation that is occurring to our global food system. .
why We Must reduce food insecurity
Food insecurity is a critical issue that affects millions of people around the world. Addressing food insecurity is important for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 1 which is related to ending poverty in all its forms, and SDG 2 which concerns ending hunger and improving nutrition.
Food insecurity closely links to negative health outcomes, economic instability, and environmental degradation. THRIVE suggests that by reducing food insecurity by any means we can, we should see improvements in health outcomes and economic and environmental sustainability. Achieving these goals requires a strong approach that addresses the root causes of food insecurity, including poverty, social inequality, and environmental degradation. A better food system means equity in access to opportunities and more.
A THRIVABLE Framework
At its core, sustainability simply means the ability to continue, to survive. ‘Thrivability‘, by contrast, is the next step, beyond sustainability. THRIVE believes that humanity can do better with the knowledge currently available to us. We want to instil the idea that sustainable solutions not only prevent disaster, but offer the potential for societies that flourish.
The THRIVE Framework examines issues and evaluates potential solutions in relation to this overarching goal of thrivability. It is about making predictive analyses using modern technology that support environmental and social sustainability transformations.
THRIVE recgonises that food security and nutrition are issues of human rights and equity, and that they are therefore critical to achieving a just and sustainable transition to a better future for all.
To learn more about how The THRIVE Project is researching, educating and advocating for a future beyond sustainability, visit our website. You can follow our informative blog and podcast series and learn about our regular live webinars featuring expert guests in the field. Sign up for our newsletter for regular updates.