half of all the world’s food is wasted

Despite our ongoing prayer and action on global poverty and our heartbreaking familiarity with the statistics that fuel us to keep fighting for change, there are days when the reality is so stark it shocks us all over again. Today is one of those days.


In preparing for morning worship, we read this story on the BBC’s website – Half of all food ‘wasted’ report claims. We’d encourage you to take a few minutes to read it but in summary:

– The Institute of Mechanical Engineers has published a report ‘Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not’.

In it they say that as much as half the world’s food – amounting to nearly 2 billion tonnes – is wasted because of poor storage, strict sell-by dates, bulk offers and consumer fussiness.

– In Europe and the US, half of food is thrown away.

– In addition, 550 billion cubic metres of water is being used to grow crops that are never eaten.

– They are calling for widespread change in understanding and practice so that the world’s food can instead be used to feed it’s growing population, set to reach 9.5 billion by 2075.

It’s always difficult, as a number of commentators have already stated, to authenticate these kind of claims in terms of numbers. But the truth and scale of the problem is indisputable.

It’s encouraging to see this kind of report coming from the business community, rather than from the NGO and Development sectors. And we are heartened to read that a clear distinction is being made between issues in the developing world centring around the early stages of the food chain and in more developed economies being down to ‘poor marketing practices and consumer behaviour’.

But the hope that comes from a report that raises the real issues being published from this kind of source is today outweighed by the outrage that things can have reached this stage.

Because alongside the arguments we hear in this report’s statement is the background noise of those familiar, chilling statistics. 925 million go to bed hungry every night… 1.4 billion live in extreme poverty… and the echoes of  the voices of countless unique individuals we’ve heard speak, or read the stories of, who talk about what it is like to struggle in this way.

And the quieter, persistent knowledge that we are implicit in this… every time we consume more than we need to or support in any way the trade practices which steal from the poor to provide excess to the rich.

How do we undo the complexity of so many wrong decisions and so much entrenched behaviour – especially when it is on a global scale?

We don’t know but for us today it looks something like this…

We started by allowing ourselves to again face up to the outrageous truth that is global poverty. And refusing to allow ourselves to be too quickly distracted or comforted by the relative safety and seemingly all consuming busyness of our own lives.

We denied again the excuse that cloaks plain right and wrong in complex political and economic arguments that permit our apathy or leave us feeling discouraged and powerless.

We reminded ourselves that God’s justice and love for each individual made in his image does not start from the place of saying how can we help people in the context of our society? But calls for people to be prioritised and society to be rebuilt – from scratch if necessary – from this position.

Then we got on our knees and cried out to God for mercy and for his help as we seek to work with him to effect change in the world.

We committed to look again at our own consumer practices and keep bringing them to the loving scrutiny of his presence. And to keep asking him, “where am I still living a less extreme version of my own culture rather than the vibrant, life-giving counter-culturism of your kingdom Lord?”

And we thought of how we could spread the word and campaign more to ensure that we speak up for the voiceless hungry.

We know we’ll go through this cycle hundreds more times as we seek to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. We won’t get it all right. But uncomfortable as it is we’ll keep asking the questions, persevering in prayer and action and pursuing a world that looks more like we’re loving our neighbours rather than indulging ourselves at their expense.

And we won’t apologise for our strength of feeling or tone of voice on this subject – because we can all effect radical change. If only we allow ourselves to face the truth for long enough to feel uncomfortable enough to refuse to settle for less. The question really is are we willing to pay the cost for that?

Want to do something right now?

Pray – You’ll find links to all our worship and prayer resources on global poverty on our search by issue page

Spread the word – Raise awareness about this BBC news story and/or some of these statistics and how they make you feel – in church, on your Facebook status or blog or with friends you see over the next few days.

Start or continue campaigning –  There are lots of brilliant organisations who can help you join with us to strategically speak out and influence decision makers to really change things. We suggest starting with Christian Aid or Tearfund.

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