THE BLOG
15/10/2015 06:13 BST | Updated 14/10/2016 06:12 BST

Why Generation Y Should Fight Food Waste

Why should young people care about food waste? Because they will be one of the first generations to really feel the effects of the world's rapidly growing population, such as increased food demand, food shortages and higher prices. And what can they do about it? Be the generation that really makes positive change.

The United Nations recently called on the world's youth to mobilise and champion the cause of ending hunger, achieving food security and improve nutrition, as part of Generation Zero Hunger. So how can they achieve this? Ending food waste would be a key tool.

Walk through London, or Lisbon, or Los Angeles, or any other city in the developed world. It's not hard to find an array of restaurants offering all-you-can-eat buffets. You could almost assume that there's an endless supply of food, so plentiful, that we can take as we wish, and waste roughly a third. And that's right - that's what we do. For every three meals plated up, consider that one (on average), is just being thrown in the bin.

This is a far cry from my mother's generation, those who grew up in the aftermath of the war. Rationing was introduced in 1940, after ships bound with imports were affected by naval attacks. These restrictions lasted for 14 years, so Britons became thrifty with food as standard. And never accused of being a bad cook - my mother would often make dinner parties out of leftovers; regardless of the occasion, if there was food that needed eating, it would be eaten. Sixty years later, and consumers in the UK now throw away seven million tonnes of food.

But there are around 250 births every sixty seconds - the equivalent to a large, luxury cruise liner, about the size of the Queen Mary 2, full with passengers, sailing in every ten minutes. The world's growing population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, and coupled with a growing middle class - food demand will be up by 60%. So this is an issue that will affect the adults of tomorrow, who are the teenagers of today.

Let's stop pretending our current consumption habits are sustainable. Our culture of taking more than we need has gone past its expiry date, and maybe all-you-can-eat buffets will be consigned to the history books before we know it - this isn't the land of plenty we assume it is.

But there is a positive side to this. Because we can address the problems of global food security, and morally, we should. Around 800 million people go to bed hungry every night, yet nearly 2 billion people are overweight. Unlike the plight of many of the world's woes we'd like to stop but we feel are out of our hands - food waste isn't one of them. It's one of the wrongs that we can right, and it's something we can all make an effort to combat. After all, with all the food that's wasted in the world, we could feed all those that are hungry; not once, but four times over.

The UN recently set out their sustainable development goals. One ambition of theirs is to halve global consumer and retail food waste, something which is a shared ambition of mine. The FUSIONS project has developed a common definition of food waste for the EU, and will publish a manual to help Member States robustly and consistently measure food waste. Building on the success of FUSIONS, the EU has recently funded Refresh ("Resource Efficient Food and dRink for the Entire Supply cHain"), a four year project that is looking at best practice in reducing waste across the whole supply chain, in Europe and China.

The future of food looks very uncertain. Whether we'll all be eating locusts, beef burgers made in laboratories or food that's been harvested from underwater pods under the sea, we're at a tipping point right now, and change is coming. Tackling food waste has an important part to play in ensuring that we can feed the growing world population. The UK has come a long way - we've reduced household food waste by 21%. Campaigns such as Love Food Hate Waste have helped shine a torch on the problem that's been going on in our own homes, and has offered practical help and solutions to overcome the issue. But as the population grows, and demand for food rises, we need to accelerate our progress and really get food waste under control to face the challenges of the future.

And here we are on World Food Day - a day to consider the true impact of food. We know that we have a challenge, providing enough food for future generations, but we also know that we have the power to do something about it. So what are we waiting for?