Faces of Food Waste, E14: Gender Relations and Food Waste
When thinking about food waste, social phenomena and social concepts are usually not the first thoughts coming up. It is important to consider intersectionality, also when analyzing environmental issues. Food waste is caused by humans living and functioning in societies. A sociological approach is therefore as important as every other. For an efficient food value chain and less food loss, women’s and men’s different needs and preferences need to be considered (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018, 9).
This article will seek answers to the question of whether food waste and gender inequality are interlinked. Recent studies were conducted in Romania to analyze gender relations’ influence on food waste. Their findings can be transferred to a majority of other developed countries. The findings showed that women are more likely to waste food. Looking at the age group younger than 30, women are more likely to throw out edible food due to the expiration date, as well as cook more than can be consumed. Other studies show that women between 30 and 40 have better cooking skills and in general, cook more than their male counterparts. Older than 20, women more often develop a negative feeling of guilt towards food waste. Women were more likely to connect food waste to social inequalities (Cantaragiu, 2019, 51-52).
A recent study examining the food waste in UK homes showed that food disposal is the responsibility of both genders, shopping and cooking are rarely done only by men though (Cambridge, H. et al., 2022). Being asked how important avoiding food waste is, both men and women showed a similar interest in avoiding food waste (Wunsch, 2022).
Following these findings, the interest of analysis will be to find the causes of these gender differences and the consequences. Due to discrimination in attitude and actions, women face constraints. Their access and control to food resources are often limited. Especially in rural areas, women have less access to agricultural activities, leading to more food loss as a consequence. In many regions, rural women play a major role in the process of production and post-harvest activities. The rejection of women to agricultural spheres and resources, as well as their responsibility for the major part of shadow work, like household chores or taking care of the children, often prevents women’s ability to produce efficiently and with high output quality. Many aspects of gender relations increase food waste: excluding women from important parts of the food value chain, as well as shadow work still being women’s responsibility, while also processing the food at the same time, generates food loss. Food loss reduction policies don’t take socio-cultural gender-based differences into account. However, women and men proved to have different needs, constraints and interests in the food value chain. For understanding and tackling food loss, a gender lens is a necessary tool. Only by understanding the gender-based constraints, the reasons for food loss can be analyzed. For long-lasting and efficient strategies on reducing food waste, considering gender relations while planning and designing is essential (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018, 9-22).
Taking a closer look at the fishery will exemplify and prove the importance of considering gender in food waste reduction policies. About 30% of the fisheries’ harvest is wasted. Almost half of the workers in the fish industry are women. Nonetheless, their activities mostly focus on shadow work, low-paid and low-skilled jobs. In the other areas, women are often excluded. Women are mostly responsible for the processing of the fish. In Zambia they are therefore three times more likely to waste fish, being often overburdened with additional domestic tasks and lacking the financial and technological resources to achieve later expiration. Fish loss strategies focus on developing technological solutions while overlooking gender imbalances. This proves, food waste cannot be prevented without taking into regard gender relations (How Does Gender Influence Food Loss and Waste | Food Loss and Waste in Fish Value Chains, 2020).
“By overlooking the importance of gender dynamics and operating gender-blind, food loss reduction may be less effective and even exacerbate gender inequalities along the food value chain. Therefore, in order to be effective and have a long-lasting impact, food loss reduction strategies and interventions must from the onset take into consideration the underlying socio-cultural factors and systematically integrate gender equality concerns.” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2018, ix)
In the end, it should be mentioned that Food Circle never intends to exclude people or provoke an isolated feeling. Since most data is still considering only gender dualism, this article will have to also. In order to analyze social phenomena, the constructs and structures constituting our societies, become parts of the analysis. Gender dualism is a construct leading not only a lot of studies and research but is also often still the leading perception of societal processes, structures, processes and phenomena.
The intent of such articles and analysis never was and will never be to exclude [non-binary] genders.
Bruin, A. de, Cinderby, S. and Cambridge, H. (2022). Understanding why people waste food.
Cantaragiu, R. (2019, November 8). The Impact of Gender on Food Waste at the Consumer Level. Studia Universitatis „Vasile Goldis” Arad – Economics Series, 29(4), 41-57. https://www.sciendo.com/article/10.2478/sues-2019-0017
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2018). Gender and Food Loss in Sustainable Food Value Chains: A Guiding Note (Food & Agriculture Organization, Ed.). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
How Does Gender Influence Food Loss and Waste | Food Loss and Waste in Fish Value Chains. (2020, December 29). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.fao.org/flw-in-fish-value-chains/resources/articles/how-does-gender-influence-food-loss-and-waste/en/
Wunsch, N. (2022). Avoidance of food waste by gender UK 2020. Statista. Retrieved March 10, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1129556/avoidance-of-food-waste-by-gender-uk/