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Almost unimaginable in a country entrenched in poverty—South Africa throws away 10 million tonnes of food each year.
According to a World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA) report, “Food Loss and Waste: Facts and Futures“, this figure represents a third of the 31 million tonnes of food produced in South Africa each year.
What makes the story even more tragic is; Fruits, vegetables, and cereals account for 70% of this amount. But, where does this vast sum of perfectly edible food end up?
According to the WWF-SA report, it simply ends up in landfills, putting additional strain on an already overburdened waste-disposal system.
To read the full report, click here.
Seeking clarity on the massive amounts of food wasted each year, the Newcastillian – Online News speaks to the Shoprite Group, Africa’s largest supermarket retailer. We touch base with them to learn what happens to all the food that can’t be sold in-store. Do they also just dump it? Or are they trying to assist the country and this global problem?
First and foremost, the Shoprite Group explains that it understands and recognises the social, environmental and economic impacts of food loss and waste.
“Globally, food waste receives a lot of attention and all our supermarkets across the country have a no-wastage policy.” The Group reports that it donated R138 million in surplus food and goods in the last financial year alone through registered non-profit organisations (over 450 across South Africa).
Furthermore, the Group states that it set a target to support 450 locally based beneficiary organisations with R100 million in surplus donations, including non-food donations.
“We are proud to have met these targets by supporting 452 beneficiary organisations with donations to the value of R138 million in the last year. These donations have enabled the Shoprite Group to provide more than 40 million meals in the last year (2020: 29 million meals).”
Additionally, the Group states that strict internal controls have been implemented. Further saying that the chain manages its stock levels to minimise food waste through a “collaborative approach, meticulous planning, stock rotation policies (which are product dependent and thus vary), and sales monitoring.”
Daily, the Shoprite Group admits that there are unsold edible and usable grocery items that are fit for human consumption and these items are thus donated.
Aside from the social issues associated with food losses and waste in a region where significant numbers of people go to bed hungry, Shoprite emphasises that it also recognises the waste of embedded resources (water, energy, land, labour, and capital). Let alone the generation of greenhouse gases from food waste landfilling.
Therefore, Shoprite is aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically with SDG Target 12.3, which aims to halve global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along the food chain by 2030.
“As our data analytics develops, we are able to identify food waste hotspots and intervene to reduce food waste. In the last year, we made great progress in reducing food waste by optimising the range of products we offer in our delis.”
After analysing customer behaviour, the Shoprite Group says it has removed foods that showed no appeal to customers and subsequently created food waste.
“In this process we removed 60 – 70% of low-volume lines. Through this initiative we reduced food waste in our delis by 11%.”
In the Shoprite Group’s bakeries, the supermarket retailer says it has changed its approach to some small confectionaries.
“While our product offering remains the same, we shifted from large-batch production in our stores, to buying high-quality frozen products that only require baking in our stores. This enables us to bake smaller batches, which guarantees freshness, availability and less food waste.”
Additionally, in-store food-handling training helps employees understand the importance of proper and timely food handling. Employees support the fight against food waste by applying stock rotation, first-in-first-out, and careful handling principles.
“This year we emphasised the importance of implementing the 10-minute rule. Accordingly, employees are trained to refrigerate perishables, frozen produce, fruit and vegetables and convenience products within 10 minutes of delivery.”Shoprite Group
Employees in Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal have been trained on surplus food donations in the last year.
The training focuses on how surplus food is processed for donations to ensure that as much food as possible is donated to those in need. “Through this training intervention we have seen an increase in the amount of surplus food donated,” the supermarket retail says.
“While we know we are able to make a significant impact through our donations, we recognise that food waste often occurs at an agricultural level within our supply chain.”
Shoprite’s fruit and vegetable procurement and distribution arm, Freshmark, has started to play a role in linking the Group’s beneficiary organisations directly with fresh produce suppliers.
In the last year, Freshmark facilitated direct donations to the value of R1.6 million to 11 beneficiary organisations.
“Through our understanding of and intervention in the network in which we operate, suppliers are now able to send surplus food directly to beneficiary organisations, ultimately reducing waste at agricultural level and alleviating hunger.”
What are your thoughts on South African businesses being more responsible with their surplus foods and the ridiculous levels of food wastage?
Share your views in the comment section below.