Targeting food waste in Paraguay

Cargill amplifies the efforts of food bank volunteers with a strategic donation

By Amanda Halbersma September 16, 2015

Cargill employees Adriana Quinonez and Jessica Galeano volunteer during food drives for the Paraguay Food Bank, asking supermarket shoppers to purchase and donate one or two kilos of non-perishable food, such as rice, to help stock shelves at the only food bank in the nation. They work with about 3,000 other volunteers on behalf of the food bank’s 13,000 beneficiaries.

“The challenge is not only to acquire enough food, but to increase understanding for what we are trying to do,” Galeano said. “People are generally responsive, but the need is so great, we need more support.”

A recent Cargill donation will help the food bank attract more corporate donors, mobilize more resources and install the issue of food waste on the public agenda – multiplying the efforts of Quinonez, Galeano and their fellow Cargill volunteers, while substantially increasing food security in Paraguay.

The Paraguay Food Bank serves as an intermediary between companies, individuals who donate food and social organizations that provide social and community services. Cargill Paraguay’s General Manager and President Daniel Vazquez started volunteering with Galeano and other Cargill employees in 2015, and decided to pursue ways that Cargill could deepen its involvement. Vazquez is a founding member and first President of the Rosario Food Bank board in neighboring Argentina, and he reached out to the president of the Paraguay Food Bank, Geronimo Meyer.

Meyer was interested in targeting the large amounts of surplus food at Paraguay’s supermarkets. In Paraguay, perfectly edible items with damaged packaging or overly-strict sell-by dates are often re-sold to smaller shops at reduced prices, or simply discarded. Food waste, on a large scale, is a common practice worldwide. According to the 2013 “Global Food, Waste Not Want Not” report, as much as half of the food produced around the world - 1.2 to 2 billion tons annually - never reaches a human stomach.

That statistic is particularly startling in Paraguay, where 25 to 30 percent of the population exists below the line of “extreme poverty.” The food bank estimates that more than 1.5 million people need support to cover their daily food needs.

Meyer envisioned a food waste awareness campaign to help his food bank access the excess supermarket inventory. A similar campaign was recently launched successfully in France.

“Although it is unconventional to donate money for a campaign, strategically, the campaign makes perfect sense,” Vazquez said. “The food bank will operate so much more efficiently, which is key for its growth in terms of donors and volunteers, and its ability to reach the hungry in Paraguay.”

In June, Vazquez presented Asuncion food bank representatives with a donation to develop a national food waste awareness campaign. A new publicist will design a campaign for legislation to prevent supermarkets from discarding perfectly edible unsold food.

Specifically, Cargill’s grain and oilseed supply chain businesses in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Uruguay, along with its trade and structured finance business, are contributing. The food bank also is supported by the Global Partnership Fund, an entity that makes investments in social programs considered to be “proven solutions to poverty.”

“This is a perfect example of tailoring our community engagement outreach efforts to make the biggest difference in the communities where we operate,” said Cargill Community Action Coordinator Julian Ferrer.