Over 1 billion meals are wasted every single day, the UN Environment program (UNEP) has alerted.

The 2024 UNEP Food Waste Index Report, was published Wednesday (Mar. 27) and tracks the progress of countries to halve food waste by 2030.

An estimated 19% of the food produced globally was wasted in 2022, or about 1.05 billion metric tons.

Researchers analysed country data on households, food service and retailers.

Most of the waste — 60% — came in households. Then from food servic and or restaurants.

Following a near doubling of data coverage since the latest report published in 2021, there has been increased convergence in the average per capita household food waste.

A substantial increase in data availability and coverage was observed in the household sector, with 194 datapoints across 93 countries.

TRhe 2024 Index saw a doubling in the number of countries with some type of estimate (up from 52 countries in the Food Waste Index Report 2021), with particularly notable growth in the coverage of low- and middle-income countries.

High-income, upper-middle income, and lower-middle income countries differ in observed average levels of household food waste by by just 7 kg/capita/year, the report says.

Food waste is also a global concern because of the environmental toll of production, including the land and water required to raise crops and animals and the greenhouse gas emissions it produces, including methane, a powerful gas that has accounted for about 30 percent of global warming since pre-industrial times.

Food loss and waste generates 8 to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If it were a country, it would rank third after China and the U.S.

The 172-page long report comes at a time when 783 million people around the world face chronic hunger and many places facing deepening food crises. The human-made food crisis in Gaza and violence in Haiti have worsened the crisis, with experts saying that famine is imminent in northern Gaza and approaching in Haiti.

The report is co-authored by UNEP and Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), an international charity.

The report said food redistribution — including donating surplus food to food banks and charities — is significant in tackling food waste among retailers.

The U.N. said the number of countries reporting for the index nearly doubled from the first report in 2021. The 2021 report estimated that 17% of the food produced globally in 2019, or 931 million metric tons (1.03 billion tons), was wasted, but authors warned against direct comparisons because of the lack of sufficient data from many countries.

With better data, countries can target hotspots, drive innovation and track progress to reach the sustainable development goal 12 to halve global per capita food waste, the authors believe.

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