An estimated $20 billion worth of food is wasted each year in Australia, while 64,000 people are turned away from food charities each month due to shortages, according to Fight Food Waste CRC chief executive officer Steven Lapidge.
It’s a problem he is set to tackle with the start of the new Adelaide-headquartered national research centre, where Dr Lapidge is hoping to have projects dealing with food waste underway later this year or early next year.
He said concern about food waste had been building globally but came to prominence locally in the past two to three years, with the National Food Waste Strategy showing a willingness to address the issue.
“The strategy commits Australia to reducing food waste by 50 per cent by 2030, which will be a massive undertaking,” he said.
Most of the waste happens in the household, after it has been bought and taken home by consumers.
Dr Lapidge said more than $10b is thrown away at home – with some figures calculating this at $1000 per household each year and others saying it is as much as $3800.
Food service is the second largest waster of food.
“Restaurants, cafes, hospitals – wherever food is served, large amounts of food are wasted,” he said.
Between those two categories, nearly 70 per cent of food waste is accounted for, but Dr Lapidge said research was still needed on-farm.
“Under international definitions, food grown for human consumption that is not consumed is considered waste,” he said. “We certainly are still losing a lot on-farm, primarily through grading out during harvest, or if we have a storm or drought.
“Wasted food also wastes the fresh water, soil, fertiliser and energy that went in to producing food, all of which are limited.”
Foodbank SA CEO Greg Pattinson said it was important to have a facility able to provide real data and insights on where food was lost all along the supply chain.
He said there had been increased public knowledge and awareness on food shortages, particularly with the airing of ABC television show War on Waste, which led to increased contact from retailers and food companies.
In recent months, Foodbank SA has begun receiving donations from all OTR outlets across the state, leading to an estimated extra 2000 tonnes of food.
“The real issue (for us) is food security and distribution,” he said. “We need to get food from where it is waste to where it is needed.”
He said Foodbank collected surplus fruit and vegetables but the short shelf life of meat and dairy was an issue.