Food waste-fighting France has retained its spot for the second year in a row at the very top of The Economist‘s Intelligence Unit’s global Food Sustainability Index. (It’s a quick read — have at it!) Thanks to robust new social programs that rescue and re-home unsold food from supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and the country’s popular green markets, France’s food waste game is on-point, and hunger-related issues are down.
If you hadn’t heard, France takes cuisine and nutrition very seriously. The country has long maintained a good relationship with its agricultural community and avoided trends like monoculture, crop subsidies and concentrated animal feeding operations (commonly known as factory farming). In 2015, when other countries were only beginning efforts to recognize and combat food waste, French supermarket chain Intermarche began promoting the steep discount of oddly shaped produce with a campaign called “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables.” Bolstered by the passing of France’s comprehensive food waste bill, the enthusiasm for waste reduction has been palpable. Other market chains like Carrefour, Atac and Monoprix have followed suit, and residential biowaste recycling initiatives are proving a success in urban areas.
Previously, food merchants would dispose of still-edible food by spoiling it before it hit the trash. This discouraged “dumpster diving,” which many citizens in need relied on to salvage food for themselves and their families. Guillaume Garot, a former French food minister who proposed the 2015 food waste bill, said “It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods.” These practices now carry heavy fines.
The Economist’s study of 34 countries also lauded sustainable agriculture leader Italy for its technological advances in water conservation. According to the document, Italy scored the “maximum available for its implementation of agricultural techniques for climate change mitigation and adaptation.” These include crop diversification, changes in livestock diets and the implementation of advanced agronomic practices.
Japan, South Korea, Columbia, Portugal, Spain, Hungary and Ethiopia also performed admirably. Regrettably, however, the United States landed well into the bottom half of overall achievers, below Argentina, South Africa and Greece.