The Vicious Cycle of Global Hunger and Food Waste: A Case Study of Indonesia

To this day, food waste is still considered as a significant issue that affects food security and sustainability in the world, including developed and developing countries. In developing countries, such as Indonesia, food waste is linked to another prevalent issue which is hunger and malnutrition. According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), around one-third of the world’s food production is wasted annually, reaching approximately 1.3 billion tons. This waste is considered to be enough to feed 2 billion people, more than twice the number of undernourished people in the world (FAO, 2019). Food waste refers to the food that is discarded, lost, or uneaten while still in good condition. There are a number of reasons behind this situation, such as overbuying groceries, improper and unplanned food storing, cooking in big portions, and consumer’s behaviors including the lack of awareness about food waste impacts.

Although food waste is not necessarily the main factor to world hunger, both are two interrelated issues that continue to persist in today’s world. The connection between food waste and world hunger is pretty complex. On the one hand, food waste represents a significant loss of valuable resources, including land, water, energy, and labor, which could have been used to produce food for those who need it. While the other, the existence of hunger and malnutrition is not necessarily due to a lack of food but rather to issues related to access, affordability, and distribution. At first glance, these issues may seem unrelated, but they are closely connected and form a vicious cycle that affects millions of people globally.

In relation to this issue, Indonesia is a country with approximately 270 million people, and over 22.9 million people struggling to meet their dietary requirements (World Food Program, 2022). Despite massive food imports amounting to 24 billion dollars in 2021, Indonesia ranks 63rd out of 133 nations on the Global Food Security Index, with high risks in the categories of availability, sustainability, and adaptation (Antara News, 2022). According to a study by the Indonesian Food and Beverage Association, the annual food waste in Indonesia amounts to 300 kilograms per person (Tempo, 2021). This amount of waste is reflected throughout the food supply chain, from farmers to consumers. The waste itself is mainly attributed to inefficiencies in harvesting, storage, transportation, and processing of food, as well as the lack of adequate infrastructure to support these activities. As for additional reasons pursued by cultural habits, such as overconsumption and preference for aesthetically perfect food, it also contributes to food waste.

The link between global hunger and food waste is evident in Indonesia. Despite being a food-producing country, the inefficiencies in the food supply chain result in food shortages, leading to malnutrition and hunger. This problem is further worsened by the amount of food waste that occurs. If the food that is currently being wasted was redistributed to those in need, it could potentially solve the issue of food insecurity.

To address this issue, it is crucial to adopt a number of actions to prevent food waste. Here are some actions we can take as a consumer or any culinary practitioner in daily life:

  1. Preplan your meals
    Write a shopping list before going to the grocery store to keep tracks of groceries or ingredients that we actually need at home. By sticking to a meal plan, it will also allow us to save money and prevent wasting the ingredients we already have at home. Also, try to be careful when buying things in bulk due to its limited shelf life.
  2. Proper food storing
    It’s important to store the products in airtight containers to keep them fresh in the fridge and keep them clean from insects.
  3. Start with small portion
    When eating outside, it’s best to start with a small portion to prevent overeating. If there’s too much food, it’s best to ask for a take-away box instead of leaving the food and freeze the leftovers.
  4. Learn about food labels
    Many people misundertands the date labels on food’s packaging which often leads to food waste. According to FSIS USDA website, there are some commonly used phrases that can be found:
    • Best if Used By/Before” : indicates the period of time when the product will be of best flavor or quality. This is not refering to a purchase or safety date to consume.
    • Sell-By” : indicates how long will the product to be displayed for sale which is also not a safety date.
    • Use-By” : indicates the last date of the product while at its peak/best quality. It’s also not a safety date, except for baby formula.
    • Freeze-By” : indicates when the products needs to be frozen to maintain its best quality and not a safety date.

In conclusion, global hunger and food waste are closely linked issues that continue to affect millions of people worldwide. By creating a more sustainable food system that reduces food waste and ensures food security, we can break this vicious cycle and create a better future for all.


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2019). The State of Food and Agriculture 2019. Moving Forward on Food Loss and Waste Reduction. Rome: FAO. Retrieved from

The Economist Intelligence Unit. (2021). Food Sustainability Index. Retrieved from

Antara News. (2021). Indonesian annual food waste losses reportedly reach Rp551 trillion. Retrieved from

Tempo. (2021). Indonesia’s Food Waste Reaches 300 Kg Per Person Annually. Retrieved from

Antara News. (2022). Indonesia ranks 63rd in Global Food Security Index. Retrieved from

World Food Program. (2021). Indonesia. Retrieved from

Jakarta Globe. (2021). Indonesia’s Paths to Food Sovereignty Could Help Restore the Global Food System. Retrieved from

Agriculture and Food Security. (2021). Food waste, food security, and sustainable agriculture: challenges and opportunities in Indonesia. Retrieved from

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