Food waste reduction and food poverty alleviation: a system dynamics conceptual model

Abstract

The contradictions between food poverty affecting a large section of the global population and the everyday wastage of food, particularly in high income countries, have raised significant academic and public attention. All actors in the food chain have a role to play in food waste prevention and reduction, including farmers, food manufacturers and processors, caterers and retailers and ultimately consumers. Food surplus redistribution is considered by many as a partial solution to food waste reduction and food poverty mitigation, while others criticize charitable initiatives as inadequate responses, that inhibit governments from responsibly protecting the citizens right to food. This paper frames food assistance as “hybrid systems”, situating at the intersection of territorial food, public welfare and third sector voluntary systems. Based on available literature and reflections on previous research examining food banks in Italy, we develop a system dynamics conceptual mapping. The aim is to model a set of relations and dynamic mechanisms associated with variables relevant to food waste generation, food recovery for social purposes and food poverty alleviation. The analysis of feedback interactions highlights the (actual and potential) vulnerabilities of food assistance systems that occur when addressing food poverty by reducing food surplus. In summary, as the awareness on food poverty and food surplus arises, incentives to food recovery and redistribution strengthen the role of (voluntary) food assistance actors, increasing their exposure to drivers of change, such as retailers’ standards for food surplus prevention. This paper contributes to the current academic debate on charitable food assistance, with insights for policy makers and other systems’ actors.

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Fig. 1
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(Source: Adapted from European Court of Auditors 2016)

Fig. 3

Notes

  1. 1.

    http://www.transmango.eu.

  2. 2.

    https://www.eu-fusions.org/

  3. 3.

    A recent study commissioned by the EU promotes a better understanding and use of date marking on food, i.e. “use by” and “best before” dates, by all actors concerned, in relation to food waste in the EU. See https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/e7be006f-0d55-11e8-966a-01aa75ed71a1/language-en.

  4. 4.

    https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/fw_eu-actions_food-donation_eu-guidelines_en.pdf.

  5. 5.

    Law No 166/2016 of 19 August 2016, Provisions concerning the donation and distribution of food and pharmaceutical products for purposes of social solidarity and to limit waste, Official Journal No 202 of 30 August 2016.

  6. 6.

    National Pact Against Food Waste Law no. 2016-138 of February 11, 2016.

  7. 7.

    Data shows more specifically that 33, 22% comes from the food industry (manufacturers), 17% from the retail sector and 14% from individuals through national and local collections (O’Connor et al. 2014).

  8. 8.

    European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA): http://www.eurofoodbank.eu/ In addition, the Tafel (German ‘food banks’ which are not members of FEBA) distributes some 220,000 tons of food annually to approximately 1,5 million people.

Abbreviations

FEAD:

Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived

PEAD:

Programme Européen d’Aide alimentaire aux plus Démunis

SDG:

Sustainable development goals

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Acknowledgements

This research acknowledges funding from the following project: “Assessment of the impact of global drivers of change on Europe’s food security” (TRANSMANGO), granted by the EU under Seventh Framework Programme, theme KBBE.2013.2.5-01, Grant Agreement No.: 613532.

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Galli, F., Cavicchi, A. & Brunori, G. Food waste reduction and food poverty alleviation: a system dynamics conceptual model. Agric Hum Values 36, 289–300 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-019-09919-0

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Keywords

  • Food surplus
  • Food poverty
  • Food banks
  • Third sector
  • Food system
  • System dynamics