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Five Trends in Community-Driven Food and Waste Management Listen with ReadSpeaker

Five Trends in Community-Driven Food and Waste Management

The COVID-19 pandemic cast food security in a new light. Long lockdowns and commercial interruptions across Asia Pacific posed challenges for the supply of fresh food to large populations. Subsequent supply chain backlogs, emerging food nationalism, and export bans of staple items have impacted producers, retailers, and consumers.

Meanwhile, concerns are growing about the role of intensive farming and food production on climate heating. These factors are expediting efforts to recycle discarded foods and forge new scientific and commercial solutions to tackle food waste. As consumers across the region focus on the benefits of circular and community-based food economies, here are five factors to consider.

Pandemic outcomes highlighted the need to strengthen food security and ensure adequate nutrition for populations, especially during economic shocks. In September 2023, leaders of the 10 Association of South East Asian Nations committed to accelerate the regional transformation toward “resilient, inclusive, and sustainable agri-food systems”.


A strategic plan to integrate national, regional, and local resources to tackle food loss and waste features three key priorities. “Food Rescue” infrastructure to collect fresh, edible food that would otherwise go to waste from restaurants and grocers, and distribute it to social service agencies. “Save Food” schemes to reduce food loss and waste across food chains. “Food Banks” to coordinate the collection of donated food and distribute it to people in need.

Utilizing “lost food” to tackle food insecurity and benefit urban and rural households is a developing priority across South East Asia. Thousands of tons of food waste are generated daily. Large quantities are edible, nutritious food items that needlessly end up in landfill sites. These products decompose and create greenhouse emissions and toxic residues.


DKSH’s Consumer Goods division has developed a worldwide initiative to reduce food waste in partnership with the Global FoodBanking Network, whose goal is to nourish the hungry. Our teams rescue unused food products and support foodbanks to redistribute these edible items to communities in need. So far, the scheme has rescued and donated 132 metric tons of much-need food products across countries in Asia Pacific.


Consumers want to participate in circular food economies and make a personal contribution to reducing waste. A new generation of community-based initiatives is helping people to cultivate fresh foods near to home and rethink resource utilisation in farming.


Green’s is an Indonesian start-up promoting “hyper-local meta farming.” Its Green Pod mini greenhouses use AI algorithms to nurture 25 different crops. They enable communities to cultivate enough to meet their needs and avoid unnecessary food loss. In China, a hit TV show called Become a Farmer challenged 10 social influencers to manage a farm. They established a community market and sold their produce via livestreaming in response to rising interest in organic living among young people.

Managing food waste is a collective challenge, but individual actions can support broader objectives. Discarded food clogging up landfill sites serves to waste the natural resources used to produce it, and creates gas emissions and land degradation. Unused food also increases costs for producers and retailers, which can get passed onto consumers. Start-up apps across Asia are creating new demand for foods reaching the end of their lifecycle.


Surplus in Indonesia is a reseller of “overproduced meals” in six cities. It enables online shoppers to buy unused foods from hotels and supermarkets at discounted prices. Gander in Australia combats food waste among grocers by sending real-time alerts to shoppers about discounted foods reaching their expiry dates. In Japan, convenience store chains such as Lawson sell items like sushi rolls and smoothies produced from rescued surplus ingredients.

Cultivating staple elements of Asian cuisines such as rice and derivatives like noodles are highly water and resource-intensive. In South East Asia, rice farming generates around 33% of total methane emissions. Planet-friendly rice farming strategies are helping enhance efficiency, improve crop yields, and create less waste. Meanwhile public information campaigns raise awareness about the environmental costs of careless food production.


Singapore-based Rize works with rice farmers in Indonesia and Vietnam, and in future Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Laos, and India. It advises farmers to adopt “climate-smart” water conservation and curb methane emissions produced by flooded soils, which impact local communities. The EU-ASEAN Sustainable Urban Development project aims to give young people a voice in decision-making around food and plastic waste issues in South East Asia.