Exploring household behaviour contributing to food waste in Mangaung, Free State
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Food waste is a challenge related to food security and the sustainability of food supply chains. It is estimated that approximately 1,3 billion tons of food, produced for human consumption, is wasted every year. In South Africa, 27 million tons of food is lost and wasted yearly, amounting to approximately ZAR505 million lost per annum. In a country where 26% of the population experience hunger regularly and 28.3% are at risk of starvation, wasting this much food seems unfortunate. Food loss and waste occur during all stages of the food supply chain, namely: production, processing, transport, retail and consumption. Minimising household food waste could potentially assist in reducing overall food waste and contribute to food security. Reducing food waste can assist with conserving valuable resources like water and land, reduce environmental risks and avoid financial losses. To reduce food waste, it is essential to be aware of potential drivers and practices, which influence consumers to waste food. Consequently, this study aimed to determine the food purchasing practices, food storing practices, eating habits and discarding practices of consumers and identify possible drivers of household generated food waste. In addition, the researcher set out to determine the food items purchased, consumed and wasted by consumers in their households. A quantitative, descriptive approach was adopted for the research, conducted through a survey. A structured questionnaire was distributed among 400 Mangaung households, of which a total of 376 questionnaires could be used for analysis. Consumers who completed the questionnaire were selected on the premise that he/she is above 18 years of age and is the person responsible for food purchasing and/or food preparation. Participation was entirely voluntary and none of the participating consumers received incentives. The results indicate that Mangaung consumers are unsure about the safety of food after its use-by, sell-by or best-before date is reached, and deem it necessary to discard food items that are past this date. Many indicated that they would become sick if this food (expired use-by date) is consumed. The majority of Mangaung consumers do not discard excess ingredients, leftovers on a plate or food still in a pot/serving dish, as it is kept to be consumed later. Leftover food is not a significant concern among Mangaung consumers and is not considered a major driver towards food waste. Many of the consumers strongly agree that leftovers are still good to eat after it is made. Also, more than half of the consumers mentioned that they do not cook more than necessary. Furthermore, they are aware of correct storage practices that may reduce food waste. Vegetable or fruit peels are also not discarded, although the reasons why they do not discard it is not clear. A concern is that only 20,4% of Mangaung consumers separate their waste, indicating a probable lack of knowledge concerning alternative and more sustainable disposal methods. Another socially contested challenge that needs to be addressed, is the fact that leftovers are given to domestic animals, although it could still be consumed by a human. Mangaung consumers mostly use convenience supermarkets to make grocery purchases and visit stores monthly. Time constraints are not the reason, but possibly personal transport. Moreover, few people always use a shopping list when doing grocery shopping. Consequently, food items are purchased before all food that is currently in the kitchen, is used or eaten. Assistance in planning meals is necessary, which will positively affect purchases. The vegetables, which are mostly consumed and discarded by consumers are tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage and onions. Most purchased fruits are apples and bananas, which are the most consumed and discarded fruit items. Chicken is the most bought and consumed meat product, but not the most discarded. Milk is the most bought, consumed and discarded dairy food item. The comprehensive data obtained, will contribute to a better understanding of consumption patterns, purchasing behaviour and disposal practices of Mangaung consumers, enabling the development of suitable intervention and communication campaigns.