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Green Vegetables

Research on Food


Learn more about our project: Harmonious


Food loss & waste: According to the Food Agriculture Organisation food losses occur along the food supply chain from harvest and slaughter but not including the retail level. Food waste, on the other hand, occurs at the retail and consumption level. This definition also aligns with the distinction implicit in SDG Target 12.3

Around 14 percent of food produced is lost from post-harvest up to, but not including, the retail level. Generally, levels of loss are higher for fruits and vegetables than for cereals and pulses. Significant levels of food loss are found in sub-Saharan Africa. Important causes of on-farm losses include inadequate harvesting time, climatic conditions, practices applied at harvest and handling, and challenges in marketing produce. Significant losses are caused by inadequate storage conditions as well as decisions made at earlier stages of the supply chain, which predispose products to a shorter shelf life. The causes of food waste at the retail level are linked to limited shelf life, the need for food products to meet aesthetic standards in terms of colour, shape, and size, and variability in demand.

Data needs: The meta-analysis finds that in sub-Saharan Africa, the observations on fruits and vegetables report on-farm losses ranging from 0 to 50 percent, a very broad range

Food insecurity: In the developing world, inadequate storage facilities and refrigerated transportation for small farmers lead to spoilage, wasted harvests, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. This results in financial instability for farmers, exacerbates food insecurity and contributes to environmental degradation.

Spoilage and wasted harvests stem from inadequate storage facilities, preventing small farmers from preserving their produce effectively. This leads to significant losses in quantity and quality, impacting both farmers' livelihoods and community food security. Inefficient transportation further compounds the issue, as produce may spoil before reaching markets, resulting in wasted harvests.

GHG emissions: Food waste is also a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, released during organic matter decomposition in landfills. Inadequate storage and transportation contribute to methane emissions as produce decomposes, and transportation of perishable goods without refrigeration increases carbon emissions from vehicles.

The disposal of spoiled produce contributes to environmental degradation beyond greenhouse gas emissions, generating leachate and emitting methane in landfills. This impacts local ecosystems and air quality. 

Poor nutrition & Environmental degradation: Limited access to fresh produce in developing countries due to spoilage at the farm level can lead to higher prices and reduced availability of healthy options for low-income communities. This, in turn, increases the risk of diet-related health problems like malnutrition, obesity, and chronic diseases.

Processed foods often replace fresh produce due to lower prices and longer shelf lives, driven by aggressive marketing and government subsidies. This shift away from traditional, healthy options contributes to poor dietary habits and health issues.

Research conducted by the African Food Environmental Research Network in Accra, Ghana shows that there is limited or no shelf space given to fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)   

Food outlets, such as restaurants, cafes, Supermarkets, and fast-food chains, can greatly impact public health and environmental sustainability. Here's how these outlets can integrate CSR practices into various aspects of their operations:

Offering Healthy Food Choices:

Provide a diverse range of healthy menu options, including fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and plant-based alternatives. Clearly label healthy menu items and provide nutritional information to help customers make informed choices about their meals. Offer customizable options, such as build-your-own salads or sandwiches, to accommodate different dietary preferences and needs.

Nutritional Labeling and Education:

Display nutritional information, including calorie counts and key nutrients, for all menu items either on menus or digitally accessible. Educate customers about the nutritional value of different foods through signage, brochures, or digital platforms. Offer nutrition workshops or cooking classes to help customers learn how to prepare healthy meals at home.

Promotions and Discounts:

Run promotions and discounts on healthy menu items to incentivize customers to choose healthier options.

Offer meal deals or combos that include healthier side options, such as salads or fruit cups, at a discounted price.

Collaborate with health-focused organizations or influencers to promote healthy eating habits through special promotions or events.

Partnerships and Collaborations:

Partner with local farmers, suppliers, or community organizations to source fresh, seasonal ingredients for menu items. Collaborate with health experts, dietitians, or wellness coaches to develop and promote nutritious menu options.

Support community health initiatives or events by sponsoring or participating in activities that promote healthy lifestyles.

Sustainable and Ethical Sourcing:

Source ingredients from suppliers that adhere to sustainable and ethical farming practices, such as organic or fair trade certifications. Reduce the environmental impact of operations by minimizing packaging waste, using eco-friendly packaging materials, and implementing energy-efficient practices.

Invest in initiatives to reduce food waste, such as composting organic waste or donating surplus food to local charities.

Reducing Food Waste:

Implement portion control measures to minimize food waste and encourage customers to order only what they can consume. Donate surplus food to local food banks or shelters to help alleviate hunger and reduce food waste.

Implement waste reduction strategies in the kitchen, such as proper food storage techniques and menu planning to minimize spoilage.

By incorporating these CSR practices into their operations, food outlets can not only contribute to the health and wellbeing of their customers but also demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility.




Food Smart Analytics

Food-Smart Analytics (FSA) is a research program that is a data-driven farm-to-fork monitoring system that can help address barriers to entry for informal farms in supplying supermarkets with fresh fruit and vegetables. Data-driven analysis can help identify specific barriers that informal farms face in supplying food outlets. These barriers may include a lack of access to market information, limited resources for meeting quality and safety standards, challenges in transportation and distribution, and inadequate infrastructure for packaging and storage.

Data-driven monitoring systems can help informal farms access information about market demand, pricing trends, and quality requirements of supermarkets. By providing this information, the project can empower informal farmers to make informed decisions about what crops to grow, how to package and label their products, and how to negotiate with potential buyers. Additionally, the project can facilitate linkages between informal farmers and supermarket chains, helping to bridge the gap between producers and buyers.

Integrating data from informal farms and trading networks with formal monitoring systems. This integration allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the entire food supply chain, including both formal and informal sectors. By bridging the gap between formal and informal systems, the project can ensure that interventions are inclusive.



Key Issue: Obesity and Nutrition-Related Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

In many parts of the world, the prevalence of obesity among children is rising at an alarming rate. However, little attention has been paid to the more recent rise of overweight and obesity in low- and middle-income countries.

Non-communicable diseases stand as the foremost cause of global mortality, constituting a staggering 70% of the 56 million deaths recorded worldwide in 2015. Particularly alarming is their impact in Africa, where over 50% of adult deaths are linked to NCDs, with Ghana alone reporting over 40%.

The increasing burden of obesity and nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Ghana. The shift from traditional African diets to Western-style diets (energy-dense-nutrient poor), coupled with how people interact with food sources have been key contributors to the resultant triple burden of malnutrition, defined by chronic undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and increasing prevalence of overweight, obesity, and nutrition-related non-communicable diseases, on the continent.

A Western-style diet refers to a dietary pattern that is commonly followed in Western countries, characterized by high intakes of pre-packaged foods, refined grains, red meat, processed meat, high-sugar drinks, candy, and sweets. This diet is generally low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

In addition to this overwhelming burden of undernutrition, the prevalence of obesity and nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is steadily rising on the continent, contributing substantially to morbidity and mortality.

Africa is witnessing an alarming surge in obesity and other nutrition-related non-communicable diseases, largely influenced by modifiable environmental factors like diet and nutrition. Rapid urbanization and shifting dietary patterns towards energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods typify this phenomenon, indicating a significant "nutrition transition."

Ghana finds itself at an advanced stage of this transition due to rapid urbanization and a rise in overweight/obesity and diet-related NCDs. Notably, the prevalence of overweight/obesity among women of reproductive age has skyrocketed from 10% in 1993 to a concerning 40% in 2014.

Household surveys between the years 2014 to 2022 nationally representative Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) revealed a troubling dietary trend: Ghanaian households frequently consume foods high in added sugars (such as sugar-sweetened non-alcoholic beverages) and sodium (found in bouillon cubes, salted dried fish, and salt-processed foods), while fruits and vegetables are notably scarce.

Efforts by the WHO Afro Nutrient Profiling System and local initiatives are underway. Globally, the International Network for Food and Obesity/Noncommunicable Diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS) was established to monitor and benchmark food environments and policies, aiming to hold governments and the food industry accountable for reducing diet-related NCDs.

Food index for food outlets


We are currently working on creating a food index for food outlets to assess the healthiness of their offerings involves considering various factors related to menu options, ingredients, preparation methods, and nutritional content. Here's a simplified framework for developing a healthy food index:

Nutritional Content:

Evaluate the nutritional value of menu items based on criteria such as calorie content, macronutrient balance (protein, carbohydrates, fats), fibre content, and sodium levels.

Assign scores or ratings based on how well menu items align with recommended dietary guidelines or health standards.

Consider additional factors such as presence of added sugars, trans fats, or artificial additives.

Ingredient Quality:

Assess the quality of ingredients used in menu items, prioritizing fresh, whole foods over processed or heavily refined ingredients. Consider sourcing practices, such as whether ingredients are organic, locally sourced, sustainably produced, or ethically sourced.

Menu Variety and Balance:

Evaluate the diversity of menu options available, including a range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and plant-based alternatives. Ensure that menu offerings provide balanced meal options that cater to different dietary preferences and needs (e.g., vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free).

Preparation Methods:

Consider how menu items are prepared, favouring cooking methods such as grilling, steaming, baking, or sautéing over deep-frying or heavy use of oils and fats. Assess the use of seasonings, sauces, and dressings, prioritizing options that are lower in added sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fats.

Portion Sizes and Serving Recommendations:

Take into account portion sizes and serving recommendations to promote moderation and portion control among customers. Provide options for smaller portion sizes or customizable orders to accommodate varying appetites and calorie needs.

Allergen and Dietary Information:

Ensure that menu items are clearly labeled with allergen information and dietary considerations (e.g., gluten-free, dairy-free) to help customers make informed choices. Provide additional resources or assistance for customers with specific dietary restrictions or preferences.

Promotional and Marketing Practices:

Consider how food outlets promote and market their healthier menu options, including the visibility of these items on menus, signage, and promotional materials. Evaluate the effectiveness of marketing strategies in encouraging customers to choose healthier options over less nutritious alternatives.

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