Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - Half the world’s food goes to waste, report finds - 10 January

As much as half of all the food produced in the world each year ends up being thrown away, according to a new report.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 10 January

Half the world’s food goes to waste, report finds

By Ed Dorrell

As much as half of all the food produced in the world each year ends up being thrown away, according to a new report.

Researchers who came up with the statistic say that the waste, which is estimated to be up to two billion tonnes of food, is the fault of poor storage that allows food to go off, over-strict sell-by dates, “get-one-free” offers and consumer fussiness.

Each year countries around the world produce some four billion tonnes of food but a huge proportion is never eaten. Half the food purchased in Europe and the US is thrown away after it is bought, according to the report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineering (IME).

Campaigners who want to stamp out hunger and famine among the world’s poor have highlighted the long-term impacts of such waste. By 2075, they say, the United Nations predicts that the global population will reach around 9.5 billion, resulting in an extra three billion mouths to feed.

Vast quantities of water are also wasted in food production; around 550 billion cubic metres of water is used to grow crops that never reach the dinner table, the report notes. Producing one kilogram of meat is also said to take 20 to 50 times more water than producing the same weight of vegetables.

The demand for water in food production could reach 10 to 13 trillion cubic metres a year by 2050, the IME said. This is up to 3.5 times greater than the total amount of fresh water used by humans today – which the researchers said threatened the possibility of dangerous water shortages around the world.

“The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering,” Tim Fox, the IME’s head of energy and environment, said. “This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population - as well as those in hunger today.

“It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.”


  • What problems could be caused if we waste too much food?
  • Can you think of any ethical arguments against throwing food away?
  • What could you do at home or at school to help reduce the amount of food you throw away?
  • Whose responsibilty should it be to tackle problems of food wastage?

Related resources

Global food supplies

  • Take a look at this informative video from Green TV on global food supplies and the impact of rising food costs.

The world food crisis

  • Get your class thinking about the global food crisis using these flashcards, lesson ideas and PowerPoint tutorial.

Why do we need food?

  • A lovely medium-term plan on why we need food; ideal for SEN classes and easily adapted for different age groups.

How to become a Fair Trade school

  • Find out how to become a Fair Trade school with these handy tips from the Fair Trade Foundation.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week

Governments all over the world are increasingly concerned about the growing obesity epidemic, which is largely caused by unhealthy eating and sedentary lifestyles.

There could be as many as 17 billion planets like Earth in our galaxy, scientists have discovered, a number that dramatically increases how likely it is that aliens exist.

Sandy Hook shootings put US gun control debate centre-stage.

The UK experienced its second wettest year on record in 2012, with warnings that the country faces a future of increasing downpours and floods.

In the news archive index