Moving away from hunger toward activism

(Alan Levine/Creative Commons)

Lia is from a small town in the south of Brazil, and she comes from a very poor family. She remembers when she was a child, when they were lucky enough to have meat for dinner, the six siblings and parents had to share one chicken. Jeovan, her older brother, normally ate the chicken bottom. He also had a job: go to the farmer’s market when they were about to close and ask for the fruits and vegetables that were going to be thrown out. All the apples he had ever eaten as a child were bruised. Unfortunately, there are 795 million people living like Lia and Jeovan around the world today.

As the time passed, Lia grew up. She went to high school while working. And when she finished it, her mother found her a job as an administrative assistant. Having a salary motivated Lia to go to college. And she became the first to have a college degree in the family. So, she moved to the United States and acquired her second college degree, a B.A. in Environmental and Sustainability Studies.

At school she learned that despite the belief that we need to increase food production in order to feed the increasing population, 1.4 billion tons or 33% of the food produced worldwide is wasted, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. This shows we have enough food to feed everyone if we solve the waste problem.

Not surprisingly, in America the largest share of all food losses in the food supply chain happens at the household level. Consumers waste 25% of the purchased edible products, and fresh fruits and vegetables correspond to 22% of the waste. To complicate these factors, the food industry is the “second largest advertiser in the American economy,” which constantly reminds consumers to eat even when they are not hungry. Food waste is a global problem because it accounts for 90% of landfill’s methane emissions, but only 3% of food wasted is composted. 

So, with larger refrigerators and larger disposable income, Lia also saw herself buying more and consequently wasting more food. The paradox between her past of food scarcity and her present of food waste became strong motivators for her to act meaningfully. To escape the trend, she started gardening, composting her food scraps, buying from local farmers and from farmer’s markets. With these foods being a little more expensive, she bought what she needed, when she needed. Incredibly, by reducing the amount of miles her food traveled, she also reduced the amount of food she wasted.

Today Lia advocates for local foods, vegetable gardens, and reduced consumption. She also volunteers for a food recovery non-profit, and she works for an international organization to eradicate poverty and hunger.


America’s Eating Habits: Changes and Consequences. (1999) (Vol. Agriculture Information Bulletin). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Food and Rural Economics Division. Retrieved from

Anonymous. (2013). Global Food Wastage Footprint. BioCycle; Emmaus, 54(9), 6,8.

Food and Agriculture Organization. (2011). Global Food Losses and Food Waste. Rome, Italy.

Gunders, D. (2012). Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Retrieved from

McGuire, S. (2015). The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015: Meeting the 2015 International Hunger Targets: Taking Stock of Uneven Progress. Rome: FAO, 2015. Advances in Nutrition, 6(5), 623–624.

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