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  • Writer's pictureNZ Food Waste Champions

Aotearoa Food Systems Summit Dialogues

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

The United Nations has inspired dialogues around the world on our food systems, in the lead up to the Food Systems Summit in New York in September 2021.

I've been lucky enough to facilitate three independent dialogues and two government dialogues on the topic of food waste reduction with around 50 participants. The motivations for these participants in getting behind reducing food waste are wide-ranging but centre around environmental, social and economic benefits.

Participants at the inaugural Food Waste Summit early this year.

With one third of the food we produce in NZ and globally estimated as being wasted, it's clear we need to act. Drawing from the most common themes and ideas from participants in the dialogues, this blog sets out the top 10 actions key players can take within the next three years, to set us on the path of achieving SDG 12.3 and halving food waste by 2030.


1. Urgently setting a definition of "food waste" and a target: the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) committed to doing so in 2020, but we are yet to see real progress. Adopting SDG 12.3 seems like a sensible step (considering it is an international target) and people are ready and willing to consult on a definition.

2. Measuring food waste to set a national baseline: we will only manage (and value) what we measure. To set a food waste baseline requires industry and research collaboration, but government needs to lead - so that we can understand the extent of the problem at each stage of the food value chain, find "hot spots", and track progress.

3. Making available food waste reduction funding streams: the government has provided some funding to reduce food waste through the Waste Minimisation Fund and it is promising that "achieving better outcomes for organic waste" was one of two investment signal this year. There's however room to expand funding through collaborative MfE/ MSD/ MPI programmes that target food waste reduction.

PM Jacinda Ardern announcing KiwiHarvest | Rabobank research on household food waste behaviours, costing $1.4B per year, at Fielddays in June 2021.


4. Fund and sign up to a business voluntary commitment: these exist in 30+ countries around the world e.g. the Courtauld Commitment in the UK and have proven to be a successful policy tool to reduce food waste. They attract businesses to set targets, measure food waste and take a series of actions, such as up-cycling food into new products. NZ Food Waste Champions' are currently seeking financial partners for a Kai Commitment here in NZ (please get in touch if you're interested!).

5. Promote the maintenance of profitability and innovation: luckily, reducing food waste has been found to hold a 14:1 return on investment for businesses who are engaged. Participants at the dialogues are calling on businesses to be innovative with their food waste and suggesting business leaders in this space (like KPMG or Rabobank) consider supporting an innovation hackathon, or innovation funding opportunity, here in NZ. Watch this space!

6. Business case study successes are highlighted and celebrated: in NZ Champions' 12.3's Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, we highlight the great work that each of our Champions are doing to tackle food waste. We also think you should check out an amazing initiative called Sustainable is Attainable (a regional success story on collaborating to reduce waste!).

Nigel Davenport from Venture Timaru, who set up Sustainable is Attainable, which is a collective of businesses in the region working towards a more sustainable future.


7. Restoring the mana of food: participants commonly said that we need to highlight the value of food - which is the vision of NZ Champions 12.3: He Taonga Te Kai. We need to recognise indigenous wisdom and traditional food growing and values, such as kaitiakitanga and embrace indigenous programmes like Para Kore.

8. Support consumer awareness campaigns and education in schools: participants mentioned amazing campaigns need further support to reach more people, such as Love Food Hate Waste. They also highlighted the need to support successful sustainable education programmes at schools, such as EnviroSchools, and to roll-out useful food waste reduction resources like this poster.

9. Incentivise food redistribution to people e.g. food rescue: the amazing work of the food rescue sector, to pick up surplus food and redistribute to people in need, was mentioned in the dialogues. National bodies like Kore Hiakai, AFRA and the NZ Food Network were also recognised for their good work in lifting national ambitions around food security and no food waste.

10. Develop infrastructure e.g. for urban farming and organics collections: NZ is lagging behind other countries in terms of our infrastructure for organics collections and in supporting urban farming. The multiple benefits of localised urban farms were highlighted by some passionate participants, referring to examples such as Kai Cycle, Kelmarna Gardens and Cultive Christchurch.

Kelmarna Gardens, where participant Nick Morrison from Go Well Consulting frequents.

It's going to take a collaborative effort, with government, businesses and community on board to tackle food waste. If we want to move food away from landfill and instead value this precious resource, we need to act now.

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