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Reducing Post-Harvest Loss with Multi-Sectoral Solutions

Five months ago, we witnessed the phenomenon of American farmers dumping perfectly good fresh milk into manure pits and onions into ditches. A global pandemic sent our economy into a frenzy of shocks and changes to consumers’ purchasing power that hasn’t been seen in decades. On this first observance of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, the extraordinary set of compound shocks brought on by COVID-19 are challenging global food systems and have brought 20 years of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) progress to a screeching halt. In the agriculture sector, smallholder farmers’ incomes are negatively impacted by a slowdown in the global economy: consumers have less money to buy food and markets aren’t bustling like they once were. Smallholder farmers are especially restricted in their ability to adapt, pivot, and shift operations in the face of a devastating pandemic. Disruptions related to the pandemic have driven up food loss, but even in a normal year, the loss of food signals that precious resources were wasted, opportunities for better nutrition have been lost, and undesirable pressure has been placed on natural resources used in food production.