I would like to reassure those in the world who are dying of hunger: here, we eat for you. Michel Coluche
French comedian Coluche made this ironic statement in 1986. Three decades later, this quotation really needs to be updated, as the situation has become even worse. We, the privileged, waste ever-increasing quantities of food, while in our faces but beyond our perception, others are dying of hunger.
The counter on the left counts the number of people who die of hunger. On the right is the number of tonnes of food that are wasted. The counters use data from the World Counters website and display it in real time. The difference in the counter values is caused by the differences in the time zones ("World Counter" server location USA East Coast). The data published in The World Counts comes from many organisations and research institutes.
The project TICK-TOCK draws attention to one of the greatest and most tragic paradoxes of our time; We throw away one third of the food produced each year while 1 in 8 of the world’s population goes hungry, and children die of starvation. Studies assessing the quantity of food that is needlessly thrown away worldwide have found that one third of the food produced globally ends up in our dustbins every year, even though it is perfectly edible. In Europe, this corresponds to almost 200 kg per person, or 90 million tonnes of perfectly good food thrown away each year. Worldwide, 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted annually. The reasons for such waste can be seen at different stages of the food chain. Right from the selection stage, the producer rules out a large quantity of produce purely on aesthetic grounds, as it is visually less appealing, even though it is absolutely fine in all other respects. Next, not only do food shops encourage consumption with their “two for one” style offers, which encourage waste, but the hotel and catering sectors are also involved, especially as they throw away large quantities of food that is still edible. Finally, the dates on packaging are often poorly understood by many consumers, who prematurely throw away food when it is still safe to eat. This waste is obviously an immense loss in economic terms, yet this is nothing compared to the ethical and human considerations involved. In fact, while we are wasting 30% of the available food each year, a billion people, or one out of every eight people on earth, suffer from hunger.
If the fact that people still die of hunger in the 21st century is already deplorable in itself, the thought that this tragedy exists alongside an outrageous waste of food makes the situation even more repugnant.
All around the world, the coronavirus and its restrictions are pushing already hungry communities over the edge, cutting off meager farms from markets and isolating villages from food and medical aid. Virus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to an urgent call to action from the United Nations.
Is there anything that attacks the rights of the child in a more vicious and cruel way than hunger? It is only when children see their right to life and health guaranteed that they can ever hope to have access to an education and to the freedoms that the international community recognises. Yet, if somebody is suffering from hunger and nearly dying, even those basic rights necessary for other rights to be exercised are meaningless, and human dignity and equality cannot exist. While it is definitely the duty of states to take measures to curb food wastage, we also have a moral obligation to understand the true value of a decent meal and to act responsibly. Wasting and stunting can permanently damage children physically and mentally, transforming individual tragedies into a generational catastrophe.