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Tackling food waste in Brazil

Brazil left the hunger map (WFP) in 2014. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has really exposed the gap in the global food system this year. According to World Bank estimates some of their more pessimistic estimates state that up to 15,4 million Brazilians are going to plunge into extreme poverty by the end of 2020, which is equivalent to 13% of the population. In this context, among other population groups, the youth’s food security is especially threatened under the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a macro scenario of economic recession and food crisis, developing state policies to tackle the issue is crucial and urgent. In this context, the concept of zero waste, which is related to waste prevention, contributes to the development of innovative solutions for the issue. 

Initially conceived by Zero Waste International Alliance as a lifestyle goal inspired on sustainable natural cycles, since 2018 zero waste has been defined as "the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health."

Following the idea of zero waste, the Act No 14,016 was passed on June 23. It allows the donation of leftover food, which was until then forbidden in the country. Moreover, it directly addresses food waste by permitting the donation of surplus food for human consumption. See the details of this Act below:

  • What can be donated: raw food, processed products, and meals ready for consumption.
  • Who can donate: companies, hospitals, supermarkets, cooperatives, restaurants, cafeterias, and all other establishments that provide prepared food ready for consumption.
  • How? 

1. In collaboration with the government; 

2. Through food banks, by certified social welfare charities; 

3. By religious entities.

  • Criteria: the donated foodstuffs should be within the expiration date, follow food security and safety standards, and maintain their nutritional properties, regardless of their external aspect.

Similarly, the Japanese project Tada Yasai also applies the concept of zero waste to fight food insecurity. Its name means “free vegetables,” and it focuses on e-commerce of foods considered “ugly,” taking into consideration a large number of vegetables and legumes that often go to waste. 

Projects to utilize leftover food have been discussed for many years in Brazil. Their limited success until now was predominantly due to health, sanitary, or political barriers. Now, the severe consequences of the pandemic created momentum for passing Act No 14,016. 

Brazilian agricultural policy from 1991 declares “adequate food supply is a basic condition to guarantee social tranquility, public order and the process of economic and social development”. Act No 14,016 may be a new alternative instrument to create accessibility to the food supply.

The 1991 Brazilian agricultural policy declares “adequate food supply is a basic condition to guarantee social tranquility, public order and the process of economic and social development”. Act No 14,016 may be a new alternative instrument to create accessibility to food supply.

Hopefully, this initiative will thrive and pave the way for many others, redistributing wealth and raising awareness about waste and hunger. So far the new legislation presents the possibility for donation, but not an obligation regarding food production surplus. Young entrepreneurs have the social responsibility to donate instead of waste food and disseminate the idea of connecting a social need to agricultural development. This goal relates to YPARD’s mission to shape sustainable food systems, whilst sustainable agriculture cannot ignore hunger. There are many ways to contribute to this, and in publishing this post we foster engagement that other people can be inspired by and bring it into action.

All things considered, the New Brazilian Zero Food Waste Act promotes food security and nutrition, especially during the pandemic, creating enabling-environments for youth innovation and social entrepreneurship.

Photo credit: Luísa Bresolin

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