Leading a Global Mission to Reduce Food Waste

From foodtank.com
Clare Algozin

The Postharvest Education Foundation’s mission is to provide innovative programs that motivate and empower people to reduce food waste. They have worked to develop educational programs aimed at reducing food losses, maintaining quality, market value, nutritional value, and food safety. They also provide access to references, resources, training activities, and mentoring services for young professionals in the field of postharvest technology.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Lisa Kitinoja, President and Board Chair of the Postharvest Education Foundation.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Lisa Kitinoja (LK): Global food losses and food waste have been documented to be very high, and at around 30 to 50 percent for fresh fruits, vegetables, roots and tuber crops. The mission of The Postharvest Education Foundation is to motivate and empower people to reduce postharvest losses and food waste.

Since PEF's establishment in 2011 we have provided low cost, easy to access, innovative e-learning programs and long-term mentoring for more than 120 young horticultural professionals (teachers, extension workers, trainers and change agents) in 28 countries.  These young people graduate from our year-long training programs as "postharvest specialists" with the technical knowledge, teaching skills, postharvest tools and confidence to educate local farmers, traders and marketers on how to reduce food losses/waste in their own countries.

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of? Please explain.

LK: Our Global Postharvest E-learning programs have been quite successful.  Several of our graduate e-learners are developing their own postharvest training centers (in Bangladesh, Tanzania and Kenya), and many more are at the drawing board stage. Dozens of our PEF "postharvest specialists" are doing practical research on important food crops in their countries and providing training for local populations on proper food handling, food safety, cool storage, solar drying and improved packaging.

Other graduates are enrolled in Master's or Ph.D. programs, or working as independent consultants in the field of postharvest technology. You can check out our Global Postharvest E-Learning Program here.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

LK: We want to expand our postharvest e-learning and short course programs to reach as many people in as many countries as possible. Our e-learning program is being further developed into a training manual that people can use on their own or with a group of their local colleagues.  Our small-scale postharvest technologies short course/study tour package of training materials is being shared with our close colleagues, who will be implementing similar programs in their own countries.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

LK: People can reduce food losses and waste in order to save money, protect the environment and stop wasting the land, agricultural inputs and water resources that go into producing foods.

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

LK: They can share our PEF informational posts via social media, join one of our e-learning programs, workshops or short course/study tours, or they can sponsor someone from a low income country and help to pay their travel expenses or registration fees for one of our upcoming programs (Jimma, Ethiopia Dec 2015; Bali, Indonesia Feb 2016; Dhaka, Bangladesh Dec 2016).

Download the 2015 Good Food Org Guide HERE.