Eliminating food loss and waste in Ecuador through food banking
April 8, 2021
We produce enough to feed the entire world; however, millions of people go hungry while billions of pounds of food are lost or wasted along the supply chain. Food loss and waste is such a huge problem that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals include target 12.3, dedicated to halving food loss and waste by 2030.
This problem of food going to waste while people go hungry is one that Ecuador knows all too well. Latin America is home to 20 percent of the food that is lost or wasted globally, and Ecuador is a leading contributor. But Banco de Alimentos Quito (BAQ) is determined to face this problem head on.
Smallholder farmers provide large gains
In 2020, 930,000 tons of food produced for human consumption was wasted in Ecuador. Unwilling to stand idly by, BAQ created a new program, REAGROBAQ, to tackle food waste at the production level by investing time and resources in smallholder farmers.
Smallholder farmers are farmers that work on farms that are less than five acres in size. Though the land may be small, smallholder farmers produce approximately 80 percent of the world’s food supply. Smallholder farmers depend on these farms for their livelihoods. As climate change intensifies and food production decreases, these farmers, will face even greater challenges. In Ecuador, smallholder farmers make up less than 3 percent of arable land, yet more than 64 percent of the agricultural production lies in the hands of smallholder farmers, supplying more than half of all vegetables and more than a third of all cereals, legumes, and potatoes produced in the country.
Through the program, BAQ began working with smallholder farmers by offering technical assistance to connect food that would otherwise have gone to waste with their clients. In this way, the food bank has created a pipeline of reliable access to nutritious and fresh food while significantly reducing the food waste footprint.
Mercedes Solórzano (32), a farmer from Hacienda Canchacoto, harvests granadillas. A part of this harvest will be donated to Banco de Alimentos Quito through the REAGROBAQ program. (Photo: The Global FoodBanking Network/Ana María Buitron)
In 2021, BAQ has visited and worked with more than 200 smallholder farmers in the rural areas outside of Quito. This initiative has provided support to 78 beneficiary organizations, providing assistance to underserved communities. There is another benefit to this program. By focusing on smallholder farmers, BAQ is working directly with female farmers who make up 43 percent of the agriculture labor force worldwide. In this way, the food bank is providing women with important tools and training. Mercedes Solórzano (pictured above), a farmer from Hacienda Canchacoto, is one female smallholder farmer who has benefited from BAQ’s support.
Tackling food waste along the supply chain
The REAGROBAQ program addresses food waste at the production stage, but food is wasted all along the supply chain, from harvest all the way until food lands in the hands of consumers.
BAQ recognized that there were gaps in its logistics systems which were leading to food waste, especially in the process of transporting fresh produce to remote regions of Ecuador. The solution? Using refrigerated vehicles for transport. This has meant that the food bank can now reach areas outside of Quito, like the rural village of Ramospamba de Alpamalag, a community in Pujilí, Cotopaxi.
Rosario Cajamarca (50), Dayana Quishpe (23), María Diaz (37), Evelin Novato (18) and Jaqueline Lovato (17) of the Ramospamba de Alpamalag community in Pujilí, Cotopaxi perform a traditional dance during a welcoming event for Banco de Alimentos Quito. (Photo: The Global FoodBanking Network/Ana María Buitron)
Here, the food bank takes an additional step to ensure that absolutely no food is wasted, by using excess products to create pre-packaged grocery items, like salsas and dressings, in order to preserve the shelf life of fresh produce.
BAQ food preparation is directed by María Caguana (36). The food is used in its entirety and the life cycle of fruits and vegetables is lengthened. (Photo: The Global FoodBanking Network/Ana María Buitron)
Reduce food waste, address climate change
Food banks are known for providing a unique green solution to hunger and food insecurity, while simultaneously reducing unnecessary food loss, but their actions not only serve people, they serve the planet too. Research shows that current efforts by food banks operating in nearly 60 countries mitigate an estimated 12.39 billion kg of CO2-eq annually, equivalent to nearly 2.7 million passenger vehicles, just by redirecting food from dumps to families.
Food banks like BAQ are continuously finding new and innovative ways to serve their communities while also addressing the issue of food loss and waste. And while they provide food assistance to people facing hunger, and reduce food waste, they are protecting the environment, too.