Iowa State University Researchers Contribute to Call for Global Interventions to Reduce Food Waste

Cover of report, Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Ten Interventions to Scale Impact

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University researchers contributed to the recently released report, "Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Ten Interventions to Scale Impact,” which delves into large-scale interventions to halve global food loss and waste by 2030.

The report, produced by the World Resources Institute, calls on governments and business leaders to pursue a set of “scaling interventions” to achieve a 50 percent reduction in food loss and waste by 2030. The benefits of doing so include closing the gap between the food needed by 2050 and that available today, avoiding the demand to convert additional natural ecosystems into agricultural land and lowering greenhouse gas emission.

Dirk Maier, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and director of the Consortium for Innovation in Post-Harvest Loss and Food Waste Reduction at Iowa State, was a lead author for several of the report’s chapters, and contributed to others, along with Cassie McGee, program manager for the consortium. Partners in the ISU-led consortium from Africa and Latin America also contributed to the report. 

“Nearly a third of all food produced in the world – an estimated 1.3 billion tons – is uneaten each year, while one in nine people are undernourished,” said Maier. “This represents huge losses of $940 billion globally and is responsible for about 8 percent of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.”   

To address these problems, the report tackles food loss and waste across the entire supply chain, targeting a handful of hotspots and recommending policy and financial conditions necessary for success.

A key intervention is the call for making the 2020s a “decade of storage solutions.” That chapter, which Maier wrote, calls for a “focused collaboration among storage providers, financiers and governments to rapidly get affordable, climate-smart storage technologies into the hands of farmers and distribution networks around the world.” Consortium researchers have initiated a number of research and demonstration projects to tackle these challenges.

Advancing the research agenda on food loss and waste was identified as another key approach.

“Engaging in more research to answer multiple ‘next generation’ questions is critical to help refine food loss and waste reduction strategies. More funding is needed to conduct this research and advance implementation of the global agenda,” said Maier. “Many of these questions require collaboration across disciplines to solve. Moreover, researchers need to dedicate energy and resources to communicating their research and getting the resulting outputs into the hands of those who need them.”

Maier and McGee also contributed to a related report, “Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Setting a Global Action Agenda,” released in August 2019 at the World Food Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. The reports are designed to guide businesses, governments, civil society and others in the food system to play an active role in tackling food loss and waste, individually and collectively.

Both reports were prepared by World Resources Institute with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and in collaboration with food loss and waste experts from Iowa State University, the University of Maryland, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the United Nations Environment Programme, Wageningen University & Research and the Waste & Resources Action Programme.


The World Resources Institute is a global research organization that spans more than 60 countries, with offices in Brazil, China, Europe, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, the United States and more. Its 800 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being.

The Consortium for Innovation in Post-Harvest Loss and Food Waste Reduction is led by Iowa State University and funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the Rockefeller Foundation and member institutions. Through unique public-private partnerships, the consortium advances collaborative thinking and leverages the best global expertise, knowledge, and innovation for the sustainable reduction of post-harvest loss and food waste within the global food system. Member institutions include Iowa State University, USA; the University of Maryland, USA; Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands; Zamorano University, Honduras; University of São Paulo, Brazil; Stellenbosch University, South Africa; University of Nairobi, Kenya; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana; and the Volcani Center, Israel.