Every passing minute, somewhere in this world, a half-eaten plate meets its unkindly fate: a dustbin. India, like the world, is in an ongoing battle with poverty and hunger. For population of over 1.2 billion people, our country has the highest number of undernourished people in the world: over 194 million people (FAO, UN, 2015). More than 1/3rd of the food worldwide, which can be used fulfill an underfed belly, is wasted or spoiled without concern and query.
Problem of food wastage is a long hard battle that is affected by poor production to unsatisfactory storage to overzealous portions for consumption. According to statistics from United Nation, every one in nine people suffers through chronic undernourishment i.e. 7.3 billion people in the world are suffering the consequences of surplus food going to waste. It is a number that cannot be ignored; as a society, it amplifies our mal-adaptive attitude towards food and our unfair privilege to choose our portions. The value of one plate of meal is monumental for those for whom its presence is a luxury.
Recently, Prime Minister Modi expressed his concerns about food wastage in India and how a protocol to control portion control in elite hotels and restaurants will be introduced. As government policies are becoming more food-safety sensitive, as daily consumers we are equally liable to curb individual wastage. Here are some pointers that one can follow:
Is my food happy around me?
Small but significant first step, we can do daily observation of our food lifestyle and try to understand our relationship with food. Are you someone who overburdens their plate in a wedding or buffet just because you want to know how everything tastes like or do you choose to not pack unfinished food and let it go back to the restaurant kitchen? Every surplus food ignored sees the bottom of a dustbin. Such observations would help you understand where and how you are contributing to this pattern and bring a stop to it. Keeping a food journal for this a way to go! Other valuable pointers we can include in our lives are:
1. Become a Smarter Shopper: Before shopping, make a list of ingredients you need for your daily needs. Rather than over-buying groceries and making them more susceptible to food spoiling, weighing your choices beforehand helps in curbing wastage.
2. #AllPotatoesMatter: We often pick a better looking fruit forgetting that how a food looks has no way to do anything with its nutritional value & the rejected ones finding themselves in the bottom of a dustbin. So next time your hand goes towards a better looking potato, remind yourself that every potato is good enough for you.
3. Portion-It-Out: Be it cooking or serving it on the plate, make sure you avoid massive portions. Start by using smaller plates and do a constant portion monitoring.
4. Pack-Me-Up: If you are out & not able to finish your food, ask the waiters to get it packed so that you can finish it off later. If you are a label fanatic, label your leftover boxes and keep a check on how long a food is healthy enough to be consumed.
5. First-Come-First-Go: We have the habit of pushing our old groceries and food back in the fridge whenever we shop for new ones. Instead, move the older products in the front for quicker consumption.
6. Expiration Dates as Guidelines: Expiration dates are there on the products to identify food quality more than food safety. So rather than taking them as a rule, we should start taking them as general guidelines.
7. Donate The Surplus: Huge amounts of food get wasted in weddings and birthdays. Instead of binning it, call NGOs who can collect surplus food from you and donate to people in need.
If we all adhere to making our food lifestyles more food-safety friendly, we are successfully becoming a solution to one part of the food wastage problem. As Thomas Paine summarizes it beautifully, “It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our greatest strength lies.”