Johannesburg - Food waste in South Africa amounts to more than 30% of our national food production. Fruit, vegetables and cereals account for approximately 70% of the wastage, but a huge percentage of this is still perfectly edible.

Because SA is a net exporter of food, the loss and waste amounts to 45% of the food potentially available to ease food insecurity. Developed countries such as the UK and US waste 45 to 48% of their production.

Some developing countries waste less than South Africa. The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 goal is to halve per capita global food waste by 2030 at the manufacturing and retail levels, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.

It’s against this backdrop that Chefs with Compassion announced that they’ve served their five millionth meal to food-vulnerable communities in South Africa.

Since May 2020, the organisation has worked tirelessly to rescue edible food that would otherwise go to waste, cooked nutritious meals using the rescued food, and fed hungry people.

And they have done so thanks to the support of an expansive network of 30 organisations supported by volunteers, corporate donations and food rescue efforts.

Chefs with Compassion, is a non-profit organisation that represents the collaborative efforts of five founding organisations and more than 30 kitchen hubs across the country.

But despite their incredible impact, chairman James Khoza.said they continued to face an ongoing funding crisis and the organisation is appealing to corporate organisations, the private sector, and civil society to support them in their fight against hunger and food waste.

“With the help of our funding partners from the corporate sector who have supported our mission from the start, we have been able to remain in operation since the pandemic. However, our resources are running dry and additional sponsors are needed for Chefs with Compassion to continue this essential work moving forward,” he said.

Chefs with Compassion captured the hearts and minds of South Africans with its annual #67 000 litres for Mandela Day campaign, which champions the spirit of collective action.

For the last three years, hundreds of chefs, culinary schools, home cooks, and community caterers spent 67 minutes cooking for hungry South Africans all over the country on Mandela Day, providing more than 980 000 cups of soup served collectively.

Founding director and national project manager of Chefs with Compassion, Coo Pillay, stressed that it was important not to waste food and to teach this to children.

“While the average person may not realise the effect of food waste, as to them it's just a piece of cheese or ¼ of a cucumber, we tend to forget the impact once you add all household wastage,” he said.

Pillay added that this was not just food waste, but also the resources used to make that food item. From farmers to delivery drivers, manufacturers to retailers all contribute to daily meals.

The effort, money, fuel, and other resources used to ensure that households have the food that is now being thrown into a garbage bag headed for a landfill is also wasted.

Pillay added that it’s not only in SA that the food waste stats are alarmingly high.

“Trends show that rich countries waste more than developing countries. Just as global warming has been addressed and countries are working together to come up with solutions on reducing the impact, this too must happen with food waste. It is only if we work together that we alleviate this major crisis we have,” he said.

Founding director of Chefs with Compassion and founder of NOSH Food Rescue, Hanneke van Linge, said the consequences of food waste were significant.

“Wasted food means wasted resources along every step of the value chain, including water, energy, fuel and land. It also directly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, as rotting food produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

“Teaching children not to waste resources is crucial, as they are the upcoming generation of consumers. But in order to inculcate such behaviour, teachers and parents also need to be educated and encouraged to adopt and pass on more responsible consumption patterns,” he said.

Here are some tips for households to ensure that food does not go to waste:

– Planning your meals.

– Buying and consuming only what is needed.

– Do not over-purchase items that get lost inside a grocery cupboard or freezer, and then have to be disposed of months later.

– Don’t over-prepare or cook food – cook only what you require.

– One ingredient many uses.

What meals can be prepared to reduce food waste?

Hearty pot meals can be prepared and then portioned off and frozen and heated up when required.

This also allows buying in bulk if needed or if you are saving money, but also ensures you are not wasting ingredients.

Be creative when ingredients start to look boring. Treat it as a Masterchef Mystery box challenge as we do at CWC – we never know what we are rescuing until it arrives at our kitchen.

Keep meals simple and not too complicated. Focus on the taste, that is most important.

Which foods have a long shelf life and which do not?

Fresh produce and fresh meats are most vulnerable and perishable. However, if prepped and packaged correctly, they could last in the freezer for a long time.

Canned foods are definitely the longer lasting items, but it contains preservatives which are not great for one’s health.

Fresh ingredients are highly recommended and if you prep it correctly it does freeze very well.

The Saturday Star

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2023-05-21T13:15:59Z dg43tfdfdgfd