Recently released statistics from the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign show that over half the people living in South Africa do not have enough food and that 14 million go to bed hungry every night. This is an appalling statistic, especially in the light of the food waste statistics in this country. Estimates are that we waste a staggering 10 million tons of food every single year! Almost half of this – 44 percent – is fruit and vegetables. A further 26% is grains, 15% meat and 13% oilseeds, roots and tubers.

The scenario is even more alarming when you realise that children under the age of five are among those worse affected by hunger. The South African Child Gauge Organisation says that one-third of South Africa’s children – which translates to approximately five and a half million – “are at serious risk of hunger.”

The direct and indirect effects of these statistics are truly heart-breaking. Of the tens of thousands of children admitted to hospital every year for severe acute malnutrition, between 1 500 and 2 000 die while there. A further 9 000 die out of hospital. Dr Tracy Ledger, a South African researcher with 25 years of research experience in the field of economic development, believes the indirect effects of malnutrition are much higher:

Almost 30 percent of South African children under the age of five are stunted – a tell-tale sign of chronic malnutrition. Not only does this affect their physical growth, but also their cognitive development. This, in turn, impacts their education and, therefore, their chances of gainful employment. Experts estimate that the loss in human productivity costs our country over R60 billion every single year, and is a major contributing factor to the continuing intergenerational cycle of deprivation and poverty.

What Can We Do About Food Waste?

food waste 1Most of the food waste in South Africa happens in the early stages of the supply chain. A frightening half – or five million tons – is lost in the post-harvest phase. A further 25 percent is lost during processing and packaging, while 20% occurs during transportation, distribution and retail. Only five percent of all food waste in South Africa occurs at a consumer level.

Proper packaging of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat can drastically reduce the amount of food lost to waste. With 95% of all wastage occurring before food reaches consumers’ fridges, it makes sense for growers, packers and retailers to make sure produce is packaged using products that give food the best chance of staying fresher for longer.

This is where Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) plays such a vital role. Scientifically proven to slow down the post-harvest ripening and deterioration of fresh food, MAP is a powerful weapon in any food producer’s arsenal. It keeps food fresher for longer, significantly reducing the amount of food wasted along the supply chain.

If food producers could then channel some of the savings gained from prolonging the life of their produce into helping alleviate food shortages among the neediest sectors of our population, we would see a drastic reduction in hunger-related deaths and illnesses in South Africa. If we work together, it can be done!

Mapflex, a proudly South African supplier of MAP packaging, would love to partner with you to help you reduce your food waste, boost your bottom line, and join in the fight against hunger in our country. To find out more, please contact us today.