FoodSaving: at the crossroads of social innovation

Food is always a nice topic. Food security less. Food poverty much less.

The current economic and social crisis is influencing not only the availability of food in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), but in Western economies too. Wider shares of the population live under the poverty threshold, rendering contradictions more evident: in the same regions, in fact, people suffer from hunger, while a huge amount of food is wasted every day.

In Western economies, the need of pursuing sustainable development policies is on top of the policy agenda, especially with public resources shrinking and welfare systems thirsty for innovation. Food security has become one of the central issues in this debate. Several contributors have underlined the need of further research on the topic and of improving governance between the profit, the non-profit and the public sector in contributing to reduce food poverty, an issue which requires to be treated in conjunction with social protection mechanisms and safety nets for the most vulnerable.

Although food recovery cannot be considered sufficient to reach food security, still it remains a significant area of intervention for policy makers to reduce both food poverty and food losses at the same time. In this context, the FoodSaving project was born in 2014 with the aim of understanding the food supply chain and all the actors involved, in order to advance research and provide policy recommendations on food recovery.

Generously funded by Regione Lombardia and Fondazione Cariplo, the project has seen the participation of three Milanese universities, one food bank (Fondazione Banco Alimentare) and three small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the food sector. A total of 65 case studies in 4 different European countries (France, Germany, Spain, Italy) have offered an immense quantity of data and contributed to explore the food supply chain, a framework to understand food recovery, management and redistribution, with the involvement of both food companies and voluntary organizations; and barriers and facilitators to food surplus recovery, management and re-distribution.

While the final publication will be soon released, the project brochure presents some preliminary results.

A lot of policy actions to cut food waste have developed in these years, not only at the local level. France has paved the way for the first law against food waste, followed by Italy, and from the world’s first food loss and waste standard, approved at the Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen by a committee including the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Some questions still remain to be answered: how can good practices of food recovery, management and redistribution be scaled up for the benefit of the most vulnerable, and in the end, of all? How can we measure the impact of food saving initiatives in terms of social and health benefits? What emerging economies will do to tackle food poverty?  And many more…

Enjoy and help us keep the interest on food saving high!