NEW YORK/NAIROBI, SEPTEMBER 29 – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today appointed renowned Italian chef Massimo Bottura as its newest Goodwill Ambassador, in a move designed to step up the fight against the global problem of food waste and loss.
Bottura is chef patron of the three-Michelin-star restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena, and has been recognized as a social entrepreneur for his commitment to the fight against food waste and social isolation, which is one of the main goals of the non-profit organization he founded with his wife Lara Gilmore, Food for Soul. During the COVID-19 lockdown in Italy, his family produced an online cooking show called Kitchen Quarantine, which encouraged people to see the invisible potential in every ingredient, an invitation to enjoy the unexpected beauty in daily life.
His appointment, on the inaugural International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, is expected to catalyze action on an issue that not only sees food wasted in a world where over 800 million people go hungry every year, but contributes to the climate and biodiversity crises.
“If we can use all of the ingredients to the fullest potential, we will reduce the amount of waste we are creating and shop more efficiently,” Bottura added. “In my role as UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, I will fight to reduce this global shame.”
He noted that we all must start asking and understanding where our food comes from, taking action to preserve food memories and techniques that can help us innovate for the future and take care not to repeat practices and consumption behaviors that have caused the challenges in our food system today. He adds that the act of cooking – as well as that of feeding oneself – must become an ethical choice, not just a question of taste.
An estimated one-third of all food produced – about 1.3 billion tonnes – is wasted or lost each year. About 14 per cent (of food global and as much as 40% in some markets) spoils before it even reaches retailers, as a result of market connection problems and lack of sustainable cold chains – the refrigeration systems that keep food fresh after harvest and in transit.
Food loss and waste generates eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting it back is one of the most effective ways through which individuals, businesses and governments can reduce their climate impact. The production of food that ends in waste requires land larger than the surface area of China and India combined, and water resources three times greater than the volume of Lake Leman. The unnecessary use of these resources has immense negative impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity.
“There is no room for food loss and waste, especially as millions across the world go hungry,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “The pandemic is a wake-up call reminding us of the urgent need to transform our relationship with nature, and in particular, rethink the way we produce and consume food. I am delighted that Massimo Bottura, who is already making a difference through his Refettorios, is joining forces with UNEP to help bring real change.”
Reducing food waste is a priority for Food for Soul, with its Refettorio projects around the world. From Milan, to Rio de Janeiro, Mexico and Paris, Food for Soul has saved over 125 tonnes, 175K pounds of imperfect food surplus from landfill, transforming ingredients into over a half million nourishing meals for those experiencing social isolation and vulnerability.
Bottura wants to inspire further action on food waste across society by showing the value of food, its connection to culture, emotion and innovation.
The International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste is a day to expand our consciousness and understanding of food loss and waste, by taking action with simple steps in cooking, preparing and storing that will not only make a difference in our homes but across our communities.
In addition to helping countries and companies measure and reduce food waste, and promoting behaviour change for sustainable food consumption, UNEP supports farmers and rural communities thanks to initiatives like the African Centre of Excellence for sustainable cooling and cold chain in Rwanda. Food waste will also be one of the key priority areas of the 2021 UN Secretary-General António Guterres a Food Systems Summit. (@OnuItalia)