There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has added a further strain on South Africa’s already stagnant economy, leaving millions jobless and living in dire poverty. While more than 9 million people starve, there has been an increase in reported cases of food waste.
According to National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM), food insecurity prevalence has accelerated from May 2020 and continues to rise. The civil unrest that occurred in June this year was evidence that South Africans are faced with a hunger crisis that is not being adequately addressed. What is even more concerning, however, is the fact that in the midst of the pandemic where millions of South Africans who had no means of generating any income were at their most vulnerable, South Africa saw 10.3 million tonnes of food and beverages going to waste.
“As a nation, we cannot be so indifferent to human suffering. It is morally wrong to dispose of food while households and child hunger rates are so high. Retailers and other corporates must step in by, among others, donating excess food to the poorest rather than letting it go to waste,” says Navisha Bechan-Sewkuran, Corporate and Government Affairs Lead, Sub Sahara Africa, Mondelez International.
She says Mondelez was not comfortable with the high levels of wastage being reported in South Africa and against this backdrop, the company has, since 2013, put numerous initiatives in place to curb the challenge. The initiatives include adopting a zero-waste mindset and empowering factory floor teams to run its “War on Waste methodology” to identify, reduce and eliminate waste at the source. This methodology has, thus far, resulted in a 21 percent reduction in food waste.
In addition to eliminating waste at the source, Mondelez also donates excess food to Non-profit organisations, and contributes towards animal feed. The company also compost its waste, together with a variety of other food wastes from surrounding business and grocery distribution centres in order to biodegrade it successfully.
“Furthermore, we have added our signature on South Africa’s Food Loss and Waste Agreement being facilitated by the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa and launched in September last year. Under the agreement, we along with other signatories have collectively committed to reducing food waste in the country by 50% by 2030, through the adopting of food utilization hierarchy,” says Bechan-Sewkuran.
The hierarchy prioritises reducing the volume of the surplus food generated; feed hungry people by donating extra food to food banks, soup kitchens and shelters; and diverting food scaps to animal feed; among others.
“The signing of the Food Loss and Waste Agreement and the adoption of the food utilization hierarchy will help us not only continue to reduce food waste but also ensure that edible food is directed towards feeding the hungry instead of going to waste and we would like to encourage other manufacturers and retailers to do same to contribute towards the fight against poverty in South Africa,” concludes Bechan-Sewkuran.