Harvard Research Reveals How National Leaders Can Confront Global Hunger and Climate Change Through Food Donation

October 13, 2022 — As World Food Day approaches, global hunger remains chronic while 1.3 billion tons of food–much of it safe and nutritious–is wasted annually. Wasted food decomposes in landfills, producing methane, which significantly contributes to climate change.

New research shares how national leaders in Ecuador and Ghana can strengthen food donation policies to help mitigate food waste, hunger, and climate change. Produced by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and The Global FoodBanking Network with support from the Walmart Foundation, the findings on Ecuador and Ghana build on earlier research from The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, which analyzes laws and policies affecting food donation globally.

Approximately 900,000 tons of food in Ecuador is either lost or wasted annually, most of which could instead be directed to Ecuadorians experiencing hunger. At the same time, about 33% of the population experienced food insecurity between 2018 and 2020. In Ghana, approximately 3.2 million tons of food is either lost or wasted along the supply chain, much of it perfectly safe, while half the population is moderately to severely food insecure.

The Atlas project research identifies actionable policy recommendations designed to redirect food to people experiencing hunger or food insecurity. The recent research in Ghana and Ecuador was conducted in partnership with food banks Food For All Africa, Banco De Alimentos Diakonía, and Banco de Alimentos Quito. In Ecuador, the findings were particularly timely as Ecuador recently passed a groundbreaking law to address food loss and waste and food insecurity through food donation, leveraging key policy recommendations that FLPC and GFN developed for other countries through the project.

“In Ecuador, Ghana, and around the world, the cost of lost and wasted food is immense,” said Emily Broad Leib, faculty director of the FLPC and clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School. “Producers and distributors invest money, time, labor, water, land, fuel and more in lost and wasted food, consumers unknowingly throw away nutritious food and people experiencing hunger continue to suffer. Changing laws and policies to encourage food donation, as Ecuador did earlier this year, directly benefits people, economies, and the environment.”

“An estimated 702-828 million people are facing hunger globally, and that number is likely to rise as food price spikes, supply chain issues, and climate change continue to strain our food systems,” said Lisa Moon, president and CEO of The Global FoodBanking Network. “Food banks help ensure more people have access to food while also reducing food loss and waste. Strong food donation policies are absolutely critical to this work—they help food banks serve their communities in the most effective and efficient way.”

“Public policy relating to food recovery and donations is complex and varies across countries making it hard to improve how surplus food gets to communities that need it,” said Eileen Hyde, senior director for community resilience at Walmart.org. “The recommendations coming out of the Global Food Donation Policy Atlas are crucial in overcoming barriers to food access, and the Walmart Foundation is pleased to support this great work that seeks to accelerate effective and sustainable solutions.”

The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas identifies the existing laws and policies that currently support food recovery and donation, featured in a comprehensive Legal Guide, and Policy Recommendations for strengthening frameworks and adopting new measures to fill existing gaps. The analysis featured in these country-specific reports are also encapsulated in an interactive Atlas tool that allows users to compare policies between 20 countries participating in the project.

Find legal guides, policy recommendations, and executive summaries for Ecuador, Ghana, and more at atlas.foodbanking.org.


About The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic
The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) serves partner organizations and communities by providing guidance on cutting-edge food system issues, while engaging law students in the practice of food law and policy. FLPC’s work focuses on increasing access to healthy foods, supporting sustainable production and regional food systems, promoting community-led food system change, and reducing waste of healthy, wholesome food. FLPC is committed to advancing a cross-sector, multi-disciplinary and inclusive approach to its work, building partnerships with academic institutions, government agencies, private sector actors, and civil society with expertise in public health, the environment, and the economy. For more information, visit chlpi.org/flpc.

About The Global FoodBanking Network
The Global FoodBanking Network supports community-led solutions to alleviate hunger in nearly 50 countries. While millions struggle to access enough safe and nutritious food, nearly a third of all food produced is lost or wasted. We’re changing that. We believe food banks directed by local leaders are key to achieving Zero Hunger and building resilient food systems. For more information, visit foodbanking.org.

About Philanthropy At Walmart
Walmart.org represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. By focusing where the business has unique strengths, Walmart.org works to tackle key social and environmental issues and collaborate with others to spark long-lasting systemic change. Walmart has stores in 24 countries, employs more than 2.2 million associates and does business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. Walmart.org is helping people live better by supporting programs to accelerate upward job mobility for frontline workers, advance equity, address hunger, build inclusive economic opportunity for people in supply chains, protect and restore nature, reduce waste and emissions, and build strong communities where Walmart operates. To learn more, visit www.walmart.org or connect on Twitter @Walmartorg.

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