Minimizing food waste calls for a sustainable transition of our global food system

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Food waste and food losses are addressed increasingly in both food policy and regulation, as well as in research.
Since 2012, Food waste has been on the agenda on The European Parliament, focusing on reducing the food waste in the member states (European Parliament, 2012). With the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015, the EU countries are committed to meeting the SDG 12.3 targeting to halve per capita food waste by 2030 from the amount of 88 million tonnes of food waste generated annually with associated costs in the EU (FUSIONS, 2016), and reduce food losses along the food production and supply chains (SDG). Alongside the political agenda, cross-national goals and hard work to prevent and reduce food losses and food waste, we identify an evolving discourse in how research conceptualize on food waste. This has gone through a change from being considered a practical problem to be managed to becoming an ethical problem to engage in across national, institutional and regulative contexts in consideration of the cross-sectoral and cultural dynamics (Galli, Cavicchi & Brunori, 2019, Evans, Campell & Murcott, 2013, Hodgins & Parizeau, 2020). This evolving discourse on food waste relates much to the (both ethical and practical) paradox between food surplus particularly in high income countries in contradiction to food poverty affecting a large section of our global population (Galli, Cavicchi & Brunori, 2019). As well as to the need for a resilient food system, securing an adequate food supply (which involves a food surplus margin) while also improving the environmental sustainability across the food supply chain, from food production to food consumption (Bajželj, Quested, Röös & Swannell, 2020).
This study addresses food waste in the context of the Danish public food procurement system. The study is designed by a unique research-partnership consisting of researchers from Roskilde University as well as private sector partners from two large wholesalers in Denmark and public sector partners from the municipal sector of public food procurement. The purpose of this study is to understand how large amounts of food waste related to the public food sector comes into being in the everyday practices across the public food supply chain, as an unintended consequence of the public food procurement system. Furthermore, the purpose is to co-develop living labs in order to test different approaches of reducing the amounts of edible food waste across the organisations of the project partners.
With this study we offer unique insights into the complex multitude of everyday practices of doings and sayings related to the paradoxical connection between high food quality, food security and the waste of tonnes of usable foods across the private-public food supply chain in Denmark. Through the theoretical frameworks of Practice Theory and Governmentality, the study analytically compare ethnographic collected data of approaches and expectations on food quality standards across private-public-policy sectors. Furthermore, the study investigates, tests and evaluates practice-near approaches of reducing the high amounts of food waste instead of just pushing the problem further down the public food supply chain.
Early analysis reveals correlations between large amounts of food waste, especially in the food categories of dairy and fresh fruits and vegetables, and high expectations as well as requirements on food quality – both from within the private sector, the public kitchens and the local and global food policy agenda. Furthermore, the study finds that different dynamics of power relations across the food supply chain affects how the quality criteria are engaged with across sectors. The study suggests how to (re)-develop the structure of the public food procurement process in such way that sustainable actions of minimizing food waste can be adapted as part of the regulative tool of the tender.

Bajželj, B., Quested, T.E., Röös, E. & Swannell, R. P. J. (2020) “The role of reducing food waste for resilient food systems”, Ecosystem services, vol. 45, 101140
European Parliament (2012) “Avoiding food wastage European Parliament resolution of 19 January 2012 on how to avoid food wastage: strategies for a more efficient food chain in the EU (2011/2175(INI))” (2013) Official Journal C 227, 25-32.
Evans, D., Campbell, H. & Murcott, A. (2013) "A brief pre-history of food waste and the social sciences", The Sociological Review, vol. 61, pp. 5-26.
Galli, F., Cavicchi, A. & Brunori, G. (2019) “Food waste reduction and food poverty alleviation: a system dynamics conceptual model”, Agriculture and Human Values, vol. 36, pp. 289-300
Hodgins, K. & Parizeau, K. (2020) “Farm-to-fork… and beyond? A call to incorporate food waste into food systems research”, Food and Foodways, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 43-60
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), 2022: Goal 12: ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Online. UN SDG, accessed May 12, 2022,
Stenmarck, A., Jensen, C., Quested, T., Moates, G. (2016) Estimates of European food waste levels. EU FP 7 project: FUSIONS – Reducing Food Waste Through Social Innovation – Stockholm
StatusUdgivet - 2022
Begivenhed13th International Sustainability Transitions Conference: Sustainability Transitions in a Global Context - South Africa, Australia, USA, Online, Stellenbosch, Sydafrika
Varighed: 21 nov. 202225 nov. 2022
Konferencens nummer: 13


Konference13th International Sustainability Transitions Conference
LokationSouth Africa, Australia, USA, Online

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