Did you know that Americans waste $240 billion each year on food consumption? Or, that more than half of the food produced in Canada is completely wasted? Even more worrying, one-third of the entire world’s food is lost or wasted.
By raising concerns over the enormous amount of food that is wasted, we touch on one of the main components of World Sustainable Gastronomy Day, annually marked on June 18. The 2016 decision of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to make an annual observance of this day acknowledges gastronomy as a cultural expression related to the natural and cultural diversity of the world. According to the UN, it also reaffirms that all cultures and civilizations are contributors to, and crucial enablers of, sustainable development.
This day serves to raise awareness and promote sustainable food cultivation, nutrition, and the conservation of biodiversity. It also promotes the need to raise public awareness for everyone’s role, whether by contributing to or behaving counter-productively in the current situation, in having a sustainable gastronomy as an end result.
What Is Gastronomy, and What does Sustainable Mean?
To better understand what Sustainable Gastronomy is, we must first split the term into its two constituent parts: Gastronomy and Sustainability.
The term gastronomy goes a bit beyond just food and food preparing/serving. It is the study of the connection that exists between food and culture, the way people cook in particular cultures and regions, and the art of eating good, delicate, and appetizing foods. Concurrently, the word sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
According to the UN, sustainable gastronomy, means cuisine that takes into account where the ingredients are from, how the food is grown, and how it gets to our markets and eventually to our dinner plates.
Food production and the field of gastronomy are not just decisive for human life or survival. In addition, they are recognized among the key factors impacting the socio-economical framework and the environment.
“The Food Waste” Republic – a Country We Would not like to See Exist
In the world we live in, it is truly difficult not to fall into the trap of buying more than we actually need – often the quality and sustainability of a product rank lower than they should in the decision-making process. This is mainly because we are surrounded by numerous (cheap) products, huge billboard commercials, and ads once you open any sort of application on your smart phone.
To acknowledge the real problem, we will put things into perspective through the example below. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that one-third of the world’s food is lost or wasted. The FAO also estimates that if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, after the United States and China.
Food is a basic human need, but food waste should be treated as more than just a “bad habit”. To begin with, to cultivate food, producers need water, land, energy, and other components, all of them coming with different vast environmental costs and threats.
Respecting environmental cost, as noted above, food waste causes billions in losses all around the world.
As argued in my previous piece “Observing World Day for Cultural Diversity and Development” we surely love diversity. However, illustratively speaking, the “Food Waste Republic” is a country we wouldn’t want among us.
The Role of Sustainable Gastronomy Day in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets common principles and commits all United Nations Member States – developed and developing – to peace and prosperity for people and the planet, present and in the future, too. In its heart are 17 interconnected goals, addressing global obstacles and the pledge to tackle inequality, environmental degradation, and poverty jointly and demanding peace all around the world.
How are these goals, targeted for 2030, supported by sustainable gastronomy?
Sustainable gastronomy can play a role in sustainable development by at least four means: by promoting natural resources and biodiversity, ensuring food security and nutrition, and striving for sustainable food production and conservation of biodiversity.
As we are witnessing our planet facing continuous and enormous environmental threats, working towards a sustainable gastronomy leads to several benefits, such as: nutritious food systems, richer diversity, and respect for local cuisines and their traditional foods, all of which contribute to a greener and safer world.
Let’s Unite and Pave the Way towards a Zero Hunger World
The success of Goal I (End poverty in all its forms everywhere), and goal II (End hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) of the Agenda for Sustainable Development are closely connected with the advancement of sustainable gastronomy.
Foreseeing a world without hunger can be even harder taking into account that due to the recent pandemic the world faces the worst food crisis in at least 50 years, as the UN warned.
The 2020 edition of The Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) acknowledges that 135 million, the number of people in crisis or worse in 2019, was the highest in the four years of its existence. GRFC also shows that an estimated 75 million stunted children were living in the food-crisis countries analyzed. These children have limited access to sufficient dietary energy, nutritionally diverse diets, and clean drinking water, and they fall short of fulfilling other essential human needs.
These data are registered only across 55 countries and the territories analyzed in the report. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic counts among the key drivers of acute food insecurity in the world.
In support of this, read the previous Youth Time piece “The Story of Ifreet Taheea, a Food Blogger Who Raised $10,000 for Bangladesh Families” to see how the lockdown increased the number of beggars on the streets.
Undoubtedly, to pave the way towards a zero hunger world we ought to be two things; first united, and second more committed to sustainability in the food we eat on a daily basis.
How Can We Enjoy a More Sustainable Life – Dos and Don’ts
Our situation requires action, hence listed below you can find the dos and don’ts you should bear in mind for a sustainable world.
- Buy local, organic food
- Raise awareness of the food choices respecting the environment
- Always consider saving leftovers
- Reduce energy consumption and use electricity instead of coal, if possible
- Minimize the use of packaged food products
- Use recyclable packaging
- Don’t buy more than you need
- Don’t undermine the power of your own gardening and shopping locally
- Don’t cause environmental damage by your food choices
- Don’t buy products if you cannot track their origin and security
Stay responsible for the production and consumption of food, and Happy World Sustainable Gastronomy Day from all of us at Youth Time.
Photos: Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney