A comparative analysis of Community Supported Agriculture and UK supermarkets as food systems with specific reference to food waste

MSc in Food Security Management, Coventry University, UK

Nigel Baker, August 2014

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Summary :

Food security is rightly high on the global agenda. Two factors make it particularly pressing: the continuing rise in the global population and the failure to adequately feed the current one. An area that has been the focus of much recent attention has been food waste; with the FAO currently estimating that as much as a third of all food is lost or wasted (FLW). The study compared levels of fresh vegetable waste in the UK supermarket controlled food system and that of an agroecological micro- food system, exemplified by a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme. The study found that when all stages of the food system were measured for waste, the CSA system dramatically out-performed the supermarket system, wasting only 6.71% compared to 55.2%. Even giving considerable allowance for estimation (as in all FLW studies) the results are very significant. Two further aspects were investigated during the study. 1) From the study data, fresh vegetable consumption amongst CSA scheme members was estimated to be 3 times the national average at 230g per day compared to 74g per day. 2) The study report uses the term ‘net yield efficiency’ [NYE] as a measure of the entire productivity of a food system i.e. accounting for crop yield, supply chain losses and consumer losses. The agroecological system was found to be 40% more efficient than the conventional farming/supermarket system. No statistical accuracy can be attributed to the study, as no direct data comparisons were possible. In conclusion, it is suggested that this report prompts detailed investigation of food waste, diet and health in CSA members and that agroecological organisations re-evaluate the importance of FLW as well as fully assessing the NYE of agroecological food systems.

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