The Undeniable Interconnectedness of Food Security and Sustainable Living

Food insecurity and climate change are two global crises that often feel too big and too isolated for any individual to resolve. However, making an impact on both issues is more doable than you may think. There’s an interconnection between sustainable living and food security goals that you can act locally to achieve in your community, whether you’re at work or at home.

Let’s explore how your sustainable efforts can help access to food grow — and how better food handling and food consumption choices can improve sustainability. As you recognize how some of the biggest issues facing our world interconnect, you can proactively contribute to solutions in your area.

Food Loss vs. Food Waste

A quarter of food production emissions are wasted in the supply chain and by consumers. To help you understand the link between food security and sustainability, we’ll explore two ways that people waste food at the business and consumer levels.

Food Loss

Food loss occurs when food becomes spoiled or otherwise lost before it reaches consumers. It’s often the result of poor pest control or improper food handling. For instance, if tomatoes are poorly packaged in the delivery process, they may become squished or contaminated by bacteria.

Food loss is a contributor to both climate change and food insecurity. As an example, when food loss occurs during transportation, people are not fully utilizing vehicles which can lead to excess emissions. Since this decreases the efficiency of delivery, this can increase the prices of food while limiting its availability. Food loss isn’t an issue that we can directly prevent. However, people who work in the supply chain can make an impact on a local level. For instance, you can push for more lax quality control processes that allow foods with small imperfections (like minor bruising) to get sold to retailers instead of getting tossed.

Food Waste

Food waste occurs when retailers or consumers leave food to rot or otherwise discard it. For example, a grocer may choose to sell produce until it rots. While a consumer may purchase more than they can consume.

Your personal sustainability efforts can easily combat food waste and prevent food insecurity at a local level. For example, when you commit to donating to local food banks — or even organize a food drive of your own — you can clear your pantry of unused products while helping impoverished families get the food they need. Similarly, you can commit to freezing or preserving food before its expiration to decrease food waste (and therefore, emissions waste). 

How Sustainability Efforts Can Preserve Our Farmlands

Climate change can be a huge contributor to issues with food production around the world. In the Mekong Delta, which is where half of Vietnam’s rice production occurs, changes in production can heavily impact food availability — and rice is known to be highly sensitive to temperature change. In this sense, making sustainable choices can be essential for preserving farmlands.

Preventing food loss can decrease pressure on farmers to produce large quantities of food. It can also help ensure food security. When food spoils, it creates an abundance of methane. By only purchasing what you can eat, you can decrease your carbon footprint. Committing to a plant-based diet can also decrease demand for meat and dairy products, the production of which can have devastating effects on farmlands and the global environment.

Supporting the many companies that are automating food production processes can be your opportunity to change corporate behaviors, too. Automation can decrease food waste by preventing mistakes in food handling. It can also prevent the exploitation of international laborers. 

By eating smarter and making more sustainable, purposeful purchases, you can make a difference on the environment and food security.

Author: Noah Rue