Food Waste Around the World, Episode 31: Colombia
Food Waste Around the World is a Food Circle’s project aimed at providing information and raising awareness about food waste. The project is designed as a series of interviews with students coming from different countries with the aim of understanding how this issue is tackled and perceived around the world. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a unique multicultural environment.
Today we speak with Laura from Colombia!
" ...in Colombia, at least 10 million tonnes of food is wasted on an annually."
Hello Laura! Welcome and thank you for participating in the project ‘Food Waste Around the World. To start, could you tell me about yourself and where you are from?
Hi, my name is Laura Lòpez. I was born and raised in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. I moved to the US for around a year, then I decided to come to Germany to do my studies and one month ago, I started my internship at Sapient.
Very nice! What is the food waste situation in Colombia? Is it a big issue?
It is a big issue. Recently, I found out that in Colombia, at least 10 million tonnes of food is wasted on an annually. This is enough to feed the city of Bogota for an entire year - we are talking about 10 million inhabitants.
Yeah, that is an enormous amount. So, you said that you’re currently living in Germany. Do you notice any difference in what you see in Germany compared to your country?
Living in Germany, I started noticing how much food waste there is, especially within restaurants or hotels. Germans have different initiatives to save food, especially when it comes to food that is not ‘pretty’ enough to be sold in supermarkets. They have various apps and government initiatives to reduce food waste. They are efficient and people are more aware. In Colombia, most people don't think this is such an issue.
Are there any NGOs or other organizations in Colombia addressing food waste?
One that catches my attention the most is an initiative led by a couple of students, called Eat’N Save. This initiative was started by four or five university students who decided to create an app to collect surplus food from restaurants, cafes, hotels, bakeries. They then sell it to customers for a lower price. So, it's like getting meals for a reduced amount that would otherwise be wasted. Also, I know that there is a food bank, collecting the food, trying to ensure that supermarkets have less food waste.
Moreover, in Colombia, 85% of the population is Catholic and there are initiatives from the Catholic community to pick up this food and then sell it to the poor and underprivileged people in the population. Sometimes NGOs are unable to take action by themselves because, unfortunately, you often need the money to make an impact and sometimes this is lacking in some NGOs and organizations. I mean, that's a huge problem, because when you have no funding, then it's hard to create awareness and campaigns.
I see. Is the government acting somehow to tackle the food waste issue?
They are currently trying to control the production so as to not waste as much food, but I don't think they're doing it for environmental reasons. I believe they are doing it mostly to save money.
Do you think that food waste will become a priority?
There are a lot of issues in our country and, unfortunately, people don't see environmental issues and food waste as significant. They think ‘why should we care about this if people are struggling and there is no education?’ but as I told you at the beginning, with the food waste we produce, we could feed the whole city of Bogota for a year, which is insane. I think it's a lack of education and the realization of how bad the problem is. There must be a point where it gets so bad that people start caring about it. Especially now in the Coronavirus times, the people are not able to get food and services as easily as before.
Changes can start with other actions, hopefully. Do you think that spreading information and raising awareness of this issue could have a positive impact on people?
We’ll make a change. People might start thinking because information makes us understand and want to take action. We don't realize how this is a direct problem in our lives. As I told you, however, I don't know how good it would be in terms of action, especially in Colombia, where the government dictates a lot of information.
It seems, however, that there's a need for a top-down action from the government. This was very interesting, thank you for participation, Laura!
Thank you for having me!
Interviewer: Andrea Di Bernardo
Interviewed: Vinutha Hegde
Editor and writer: Andrea Di Bernardo