We all love food, don’t we? Be it a cousin’s wedding or a friend’s birthday, the first thing that comes to our mind is the “food”. As soon as we reach the venue and are done with formal pleasantries, we run to take stock of what is on the menu. Along with a friend of our’s who has reached the venue quite early and is waiting eagerly to lay his hands on all the mouth watering delicacies, we start filling our plates with all the delicacies, as if we come from “food inspection department”. There is almost a curfew near the salad counter with 3 different varieties of salads being served in various artistic designs. Nobody eats them whereas there is a brazen stampede at the non-vegetarian stalls. And when we are done with gluttony and surrender our plates, we see a huge amount of food being leftover in the trash bin. We proudly add to the stock and quip to ourselves “ Ah! See nobody liked the Koftas”. This is the story of every wedding in India. Bigger the wedding, more is the food wastage. Although the social and family functions like weddings, kitty parties contribute significantly to the wastage, on a daily basis much more contribution is made by canteens, hotels, and above all households.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, up to 40% of the food produced in India is wasted. This includes food wasted both at farm level due to poor storage facilities and also food which is wasted at households, restaurants, canteens, weddings etc. It is said that India wastes as much food as is consumed by the entire United Kingdom. This is not a matter of pride but of shame. Due to our careless attitude, we waste a lot of food which could have been used to feed the hungry and the poor. On Global Hunger Index, India ranks at a dismal 63 number out of world’s 88 most hunger prone countries. Our neighbours Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh score much better than us. Half of our children are malnourished and under-weight and this has been called as “National Shame”.
So what can we do to reduce food wastage and eliminate this National Shame? Here are some key points one should always remember and act on:
- Buy only as much as you need. Don’t overby perishables like fruits and vegetables. Make sure you consume them first before anything else so that they don’t rot and get wasted.
- Cook only as much you require. Take a rational stock of how much food needs to be cooked. If required eat desserts or fruits after meal. It helps reduce wastage and is a healthier practise also as fruits provide essential vitamins and help in digestion.
- Refrigerate your food especially perishables like fruits and vegetables.
- If you have cooked in the excess you can also share a part of it with the needy. This will get you some blessings as well.
- Avoid opting for Buffet. Research shows Buffet system leads to a lot of wastage as people tend to serve more than what they can eat. Moreover, it is also observed that less food is wasted if it is ordered personally because more money is to be paid as compared to Buffet. Therefore people have a tendency to finish it up and waste less.
- In a restaurant, order only as much as you require.Make sure you get rest of the food which is not served on the plates packed. You can consume it at home or donate it to someone hungry.
- Search for the NGOs and Food Banks on the internet. There are many such organisations which encourage people not to waste food but to donate the leftovers. They collect it and feed the poor and hungry. ( Click here for NGO and Food Bank List)
- If you are organising a wedding function or any other social or official event, please make sure you tie up with an NGO which collects leftover food. Also please do not engage in show-off by preparing huge number of dishes. Many celebrities and rich people indulge in show-off by cooking more than 50 delicacies. Some even prepare above 100 delicacies as if there is a senseless competition on who cooks more. This should be strictly discouraged as it makes no sense and leads to lot of wastage.
Well, the larger question to this National Shame is whether gentle persuasion alone will work or we need to penalise those who waste food. There have been a lot of campaigns and advertisements done to educate and persuade people not to waste food. But little results have been yielded. So, is it time we start imposing monetary and social penalties on those who waste food? There are various examples to follow. France has become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them instead to donate it to charities and food banks. In England, a Chinese restaurant charges monetary penalty if diners leave food on their plates. Should similar strategies be adopted in India? Example, in a restaurant, a simple note of “Please do not waste food” should be given along with the bill to those who waste food or a token money can be charged from those who waste food. Social penalties can also be imposed.There be a dedicated campaign to expose restaurants, hotels, households, events, supermarkets etc who waste food on social media followed by “Name and Shame” strategy.
It is high time we need to think on it. Desperate times require desperate measures. While we express “My Bad” on wasting food, there is someone who is sleeping empty stomach. In total around 20 crore Indians sleep hungry every night. A developed India is a distant dream if our people are undernourished because proper nutrition leads to good health and better cognition. Better cognition leads to better learning abilities ultimately leading to a skillful human resource. The practice of unnecessarily wasting food should be condemned in strongest words. It’s high time we value the basic elements which sustain human life. India requires a debate and requires it right now. Please go to the Swipe app, register your opinion here and SWIPE the hunger out of India.