Food Loss and Waste Series 2022

In Focus: Innovation and Alliance in reducing post harvest losses of nutritious foods

Our 'In Focus' series sits down with people at the cutting edge of improving nutrition outcomes to understand their perspective, passions and latest projects. Today we talk with Teale Yalch from Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) on fostering innovation and collaborations to reduce post harvest loss of nutritious foods.
Teale Yalch-headshot

1. Please tell us about your current role at GAIN and your involvement in the Post Harvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN) project.

I’m currently the project manager of operations and partnerships for GAIN’s flagship food safety program, EatSafe. Before working on EatSafe, I was GAIN’s programme lead for PLAN and Marketplace for Nutritious Foods. As the programme lead, I oversaw design and implementation of the two projects in five countries.  

2. How did your work relate to public-private engagement (PPE) for Nutrition?  

PLAN brought stakeholders from both the private and public sector together to discuss the challenge of postharvest loss in their country. Then we worked with them to design solutions for businesses as well as the enabling environment. PLAN did a great job in finding a common goal across the public and private sector – to reduce loss of nutritious foods and make them more available to the local population. We did this by emphasizing how reducing food loss and waste would help increase profits for businesses and improve accessibility of nutritious foods in local markets. Ultimately, all stakeholders were able to see how reducing postharvest loss would be a win-win for everyone.  

3. What surprised you the most during this project?   

How well the issue resonated with almost everyone. No one likes the idea of wasting food, the sentiment is almost universal. It’s not good from an economic, social or environmental perspective. So PLAN received a tidal wave of support from a variety of stakeholders, from SMEs to academics and policy makers. People volunteered a considerable amount of time and energy to support PLAN activities, it’s one of the reasons why I think the local PLAN Alliances have continued long after GAIN’s financial support.   

Another thing that really surprised me was how much just bringing together like-minded people helped build capacity and increase adoption of new practices or technologies. While PLAN provided a lot of formal training, it was businesses speaking to other businesses or to professors and policy makers that generated the most impact.  Businesses adopted reusable plastic crates, not because GAIN said they should, but because another business told them they did it and it reduced loss and increased their profits. Curriculums and policies were updated because professors and policy makers had the opportunity to speak to businesses that provides a more nuanced, on the ground perspective. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you create a neutral platform and bring the right people together.     

4. Innovation is key to reducing food loss and waste across the value chain. How can public and private actors better support innovators in providing accessible and affordable solutions to food loss and waste ?  

There are so many innovative SMEs all over the world that are addressing our most pressing issues. Unfortunately, in LMICs many of these SMEs lack access to the technical support and financial assistance that is critical during the early stages of business development. Through PLAN, Marketplace for Nutritious Foods and SUN Business Network, GAIN has supported 1000s of SMEs that produce, process, and sell nutritious foods. What I’m really excited about now is how GAIN’s newest initiative, the Nutritious Food Financing Facility (N3F), will be able to take everything we’ve learned from those earlier projects and scale it with support from public and private financing. This will be a game changer for innovative SMEs that just need a little extra support to scale their business model and make a real contribution to nutrition, food safety and the environment.   

5. In light of the challenges posed by COVID-19 for food security and nutrition, how can we continue to promote food safety in developing countries, given that a lot of nutritionally dense foods are highly perishable?  

I think COVID-19 put an unlikely yet needed spotlight on traditional or open-air markets in LMICs. They have always been an incredibly important source of nutritious food for the majority of low-income consumers but under COVID-19, they also caused significant risk of respiratory disease transmission. And if you’ve ever visited a traditional market, you know it’s pretty easy to spot food safety hazards and food loss & waste challenges. So traditional markets became this epicenter for nutrition, health, food safety and food loss and waste. Luckily a lot of the same interventions help address two or more of these challenges. For example, promoting hand washing and mask wearing in the market helped reduce the spread of COVID-19 as well as some food safety risks. Increasing investment in cold storage for more perishable and nutritious foods helps reduce food loss and food safety risk. I think for these reasons as well as many others, GAIN will continue to work in traditional markets to improve access to safe, nutritious foods.  

6. Given recent reports from FAO like State of the Fisheries & Aquaculture series and Gender & Fish Food Loss. We are seeing a renewed focus on seafood as a good source of protein. What do you see as the key to partnerships between the private and public entities to reducing food waste and nutrition?  

Seafood is an excellent source of protein but very perishable and prone to food safety risks! Unfortunately, what we saw in Indonesia was an extremely efficient value chain for export with high quality standards and a more informal supply chain for local consumption. At a policy level, governments need to increase investment in local supply chain infrastructure (e.g. cold chain and processing) and support the SMEs that produce, transport, process and sell to the local population. Luckily, there is no shortage of innovative, ambitious, and hard-working SMEs that know the local terrain and environment better than anyone. In Indonesia, PLAN supported the beginning of a great partnership between local businesses, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries focused on promoting excellence in Indonesian human capital through increased fish consumption. 

7. What's your favourite food (waste) hack?  

Make a grocery list based on your week’s meal plan before going to the store. This helps me focus on buying only what I know I’ll use to make our meals for the week and at the end of the week, my refrigerator is empty! 


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