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What is a Government’s Role in Addressing Food Loss and Insecurity?

Originally written by Stefanie Valentic and published on Waste360 on Aug 25, 2021.

A new report advocates for better legislation regarding food donation to address food loss and food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas initiative “maps laws affecting food donation in countries across the globe in order to help practitioners understand national laws relating to food donation.”

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and The Global FoodBanking Network collaborated on the initial briefing titled, “Strengthening Food Donation Operations During COVID-19: Key Issues and Best Practices for Governments Around the Globe.”

Originally published in June 2020, the latest iteration of the report further examines the pandemic’s role in the collapse of global food systems. The report states that “since the COVID-19 outbreak, the potential societal value of food donation has grown exponentially, as the pandemic intensified issues of hunger, food insecurity, and food loss and waste.”

Between 720 and 811 million people faced hunger in 2020. Unemployed workers or informal formers who lack access to adequate access to social protections such as healthcare and other services continue to be at risk as economic conditions remain unsteady. The brief places “compelling” policy opportunities in the spotlight.

Four key issues are addressed:
1. Many countries do not officially recognize food banks and food recovery organizations and exclude entities from emergency response measures.
2. Food Banks and food recovery organizations are independently filling the gaps left by nonexistent or insufficient government social protections.
3. Food banks and partner charitable agencies continue to face resource shortages.
4. Food banks and food recovery organizations are encountering new barriers to food rescue and delivery.

Governments must formally recognize food recovery organizations as essential partners in fighting food insecurity either through legislative or national food strategies. Public-private partnerships encourage food recover and donations during emergencies.

“During the pandemic, food banks that were recognized in public policy frameworks and had a direct line of communication with the government were better equipped to operate amidst the increased demand for emergency food and logistical complexity of disaster services. These food banks generally reported greater access to necessary funding and less operational disruption. Establishing direct and sustained communication with government may be a component of a broad national food policy or strategy—particularly if such framework formally recognizes the role of food banks and food recovery organizations as critical government partners,” the report states.

The report pointed to the Food Policy for Canada, which was released in 2019. The policy allowed government the authority to provide critical funds to food security organizations and adjust food systems to the shifting needs of citizens and suppliers. According to the report, the support the government provided to Food Banks Canada was “unprecedented” as a result.

Over in Russia, a similar collaboration was successful. Foodbank Rus and the national government worked together on provisioning emergency food assistance to 54 regions and laid the groundwork for new locations in 10 communities.

Likewise in Madagascar where monthly food assistance was achieved for 30,000 people, a partnership between Food Bank Madagascar and the World Food Programme and civic organizations.

The report also explores national food donation and food waste laws.

“Some countries successfully applied national legislation focused on food loss, waste, or donation to explicitly support food recovery and donation efforts during the pandemic. Seven countries in Latin America have already enacted food loss and waste legislation, and more than 50 food waste bills have been introduced in the region. The prevalence of such bills indicates growing recognition of the importance of establishing national policies or legislation to create codified systems of support for food waste mitigation and donation, especially in times of crisis or natural disaster,” the report states.

Read the other best practices and recommendations in the full report.

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