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P-Cubed: Elevating the Power of Partnerships

Public-private partnerships are referred to as P3s. At Concordia, we believe that collaboration is the key to solving the world’s greatest challenges. P-Cubed: Elevating the Power of Partnerships is a series by Concordia providing insight into our programs and lessons learned from partnership-building activities.

by April Soler

1.2 billion people around the world suffer from food insecurity. That’s one sixth of the world’s population. This is a staggering figure in and of itself, which will only increase as the population is projected to reach 9 billion by the year 2050. 

What’s equally shocking is that one-third of the food produced around the world is wasted, never even reaching the plates of consumers.

Globally, food insecurity and food loss can only be addressed by increased collaboration across sectors.

Food waste poses significant challenges at both a nutritional level and economic level. In the United States alone, the estimated total value of food loss reached $161.6 billion in 2010 according to the USDA. Food waste is costing the global economy an estimated 1 trillion USD. That’s nearly the total GDP of Australia.

Quite frankly, this model is no longer a sustainable one if we are to reduce global food insecurity for current and future generations. But why and how does it persist?

The journey of produce after it has been harvested is a highly vulnerable time. Fruits and vegetables in transit can be damaged due to poor road conditions, inadequate storage facilities, or improper processing and packaging procedures. Without the right tools, these processes can lead to decay or contamination of nutritional food products, thereby compromising their quality.

For the 500 million small farms around the globe that are acutely sensitive to fluctuations in food prices, profits lost due to food waste pose real threats to the livelihood of farmers.

Even when the remaining food does make it to the market, food continues to be wasted. In fact, 40 percent of food waste is at a consumer level. The hospitality industry, grocery stores, and consumers all contribute to this problem.

What many people may not know is that, globally, we are producing enough food to go around. Food that is wasted could be distributed to feed a portion of the billion people suffering from food insecurity, without even having to produce more food. This would reallocate 1.3 billion metric tons of wasted food annually around the world.

We must transform our food system in order to redistribute food waste.

So what’s being done to change the equation? Organizations like Transfernation in New York and the BuffetGo app – now available in eight countries – are heeding this call at a local consumer level. By salvaging excess food from catered events and buffets, they are leveraging technology to reduce food waste.

These tangible solutions provide consumers with an opportunity to change in order to reduce waste. The international communities’ ambitions to address food insecurity at a broader level are equally important.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly target inefficiencies in our food system. Target 12.3 of SDG 12 calls for countries to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”. A new effort was even announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos as part of the Champions 12.3 Initiative to inspire cross-sector leaders to take action to minimize global food loss and prevent waste. There is already recognition at the highest level that partnerships and coalitions are key.

Against the challenges laid out – technical, environmental, structural, and behavioral – it is clear that a cross-sector collaborative solution is necessary.

Luckily, there has also been an abundance of growth in the partnership-building space to confront food insecurity around the world. Concordia recently launched a Campaign for a Sustainable Global Food Supply to coalesce actors from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to collectively face these challenges and foster effective partnerships.

There are many opportunities for collaboration, especially at the smallholder farm level. Increased collaboration can connect farmers to technological solutions, financing, and corporations who are increasingly working at all points in the supply chain. Governments, academic institutions, civil society, and the private sector – working in tandem with one another – can create new systems to extend crop viability, improve infrastructure, and empower farmers to dictate market prices.

As we mark World Food Day, we can mitigate food insecurity by investing in new technologies and promoting innovative solutions. If we are to succeed in reducing food loss, a public-private approach is crucial to address this challenge at every level of the food supply chain.

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post