Yesterday, while coming back from a relative’s house after distribution of Diwali gifts, my car was standing still in the bottleneck traffic jam of Delhi. I was looking here and there to distract myself when I saw a little boy holding the hand of an even smaller girl, begging for food. “We haven’t eaten in two days, please give food. Give anything that’s food”, they repeated this one line constantly making me shiver by their misery. Torn clothes, caked with dirt, empty eyes and hungry faces over a body that was nothing but skeleton wrapped in a thin layer of skin (not flesh). Like all Delhites I tried to give them a pass, and looked the other way, but their innocent faces drew my attention to them (we are bound to ogle at disasters, psychologically proven), and I felt my airway close as I kept some money in their hands saying “buy something to eat”. Just then I saw a restaurant emptying it’s dustbins into a garbage truck. And in there was food, food in huge quantities. I wanted to open my window and shout, tell them to not just throw it all away, instead give some to the little kids, but no use, the traffic moved just then and the food was in the dumpster, and since then I am not able to get those two conflicting sights out of my mind.
Wastage of Food, it’s a very serious issue that we face. How can we tolerate such injustice that’s happening day in and day out in front our eyes, in fact, we are party to it? I won’t lie, I myself have left food on my plate after I felt I was full or sometimes just because I served more on my plate or didn’t like the dish. Lately, I have been trying to get rid of this habit. The problem today is not world population, cause there is enough food being produced to feed each and every mouth, the problem is wastage.
Hunger is the biggest problem humanity is facing right now. All man’s fights begin and end with this one basic need of survival. Imagine how uncomfortable you are if you go hungry for an hour or two. Now think about what it must feel like for a day, two days or more.
According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When this figure is converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten.
Usually, food is wasted like this :
- Leftovers – this is usually because too much food has been prepared or put on the plate.(moms love, I know)
- Partially used food – this includes food not used but also leftovers which end up at the back of the fridge but never get reused.(bachelors special)
- Passed its use by date – applies mainly to dairy, meat, and fish which wasn’t used on time.(vegetarians and vegans got an edge here)
- Food went off – smelt bad, looked bad, tasted bad – this food had a chance but was managed badly.(time to show off my smelling power)
- Passed its best before date – this usually impacts things like bread and other staples that waste away in the cupboard.(yeah, when you see the fungi)
- Badly prepared – never easy to say it but sometimes the food prepared just didn’t taste great. (sorry Mom)
- Change of plans – this happens but if you can manage the food you were going to use quickly then it can still be part of your future !(that’s my thing)
We have even been taught to pray before each meal with closed eyes and joined palms, thanking God for the meal He provided. But INDIANS waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes – a statistic that may not so much indicative of our love of surfeit, as it is of our population. Still, food wastage is an alarming issue in India. Our street and garbage bins, landfills have sufficient proof to prove it.
Weddings, canteens, hotels, social and family functions, households spew out so much food. According to the United Nations Development Programme, up to 40% of the food produced in India is wasted. About 21 million tons of wheat are wasted in India and 50% of all food across the world meets the same fate and never reaches the needy. In fact, according to the agriculture ministry, Rs. 50,000 crore worth of food produced is wasted every year in the country. Just imagine the farmer who plowed that field, his wife who spread the seed, his son who watered them timely, his daughter who was beyond herself to see it harvest. Can you face them as you throw that plateful of rice in the bin?
Few facts you might not know about food waste:
1. 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year (OMG!)
2. Just one-quarter of all wasted food could feed the 795 million undernourished people around the world who suffer from hunger (wow)
3. Food waste in rich countries (222 million tons) is approximately equivalent to all of the food produced in Sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons)
4. Food waste in Europe alone could feed 200 million hungry people (oh boy!)
Reducing wastage of food is challenging. It’s tough but not impossible, the only thing needed is that each one must bring the change. Solving world hunger requires people coming together from all career fields including agriculturists, nutritionists, economists, community builders, journalists and more. It has to be, it must be, a collective effort, a huge step taken in the same direction to end hunger and malnutrition.
The things that can be done to bring down food wastage:
- Shop smart and realistically: It sounds simple, but this is one of the most important things you can do. When you go food shopping, make sure you don’t buy too much food. “Plan out your meals, and make a detailed shopping list with the ingredients you’ll need, and when you’re in the store really stick to that list”
- When cooking, don’t over-serve food: The idea of massive portions is partly driven by restaurant culture, but it’s started to trickle into our homes.
- Save – and actually eat – leftovers: In the same vein, make sure you save uneaten food when you either cook too much or you get too much food at a restaurant.
- Store food in the right places: “Storing food in the right place is really underrated, It’s often surprising what kinds of fruits and vegetables want to be at room temperature versus in the refrigerator.”
- Avoid clutter in your fridge, pantry, and freezer: If we forget something’s there until it’s no longer good to consume, that’s a huge waste. Keep things neat and visible, and use the “first in, first out” principle: After you buy new groceries, move the older products to the front so you consume them first.
- Treat expiration and sell-by dates as the guideline: When it comes to expiration and sell-by dates, “Trust your senses instead of the date on the package. Trust your sense of smell and sight and taste,”.
- Keep track of what you throw away: Manage a waste log to keep an eye on what you’re throwing out, so you can prevent doing the same in the future.
- Donate to food banks and farms: Before you throw away excess food, look into food banks and charities where you can bring items you know you’re not going to consume before they go bad, and give them to people in need.
- Try canning and pickling: Canning is a great way to preserve food (especially fruit) and increase its shelf life for months.(I once preserved strawberries, they tasted yummy)
- Use helpful apps and gadgets: There are various tools and apps that aim to help people avoid food waste.
- Try composting, but don’t focus on it: Rather than discarding scraps, you can compost certain foods and turn it into nutrient-rich compost.
Remember, these small and little things, if kept in mind and brought into the daily habit can feed a hungry mouth, can warm a cold belly.
Easier said than done friends. Easier preached than practiced. Yet, efforts must be made and they will be made. I begin with myself, do you???