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Food Wastage Costs India ₹1 Lakh Crore Every Year. Here’s How You Can Stop It

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Actress Freida Pinto was recently in the news for collaborating with Copia, an NGO that leverages technology to reduce food wastage. Pinto and Copia joined hands to distribute the leftover food at the recently hosted Oscars.

Food wastage is a universal problem, but India as country can afford it a whole lot less than many others. According to a report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, every third malnourished child is Indian. Yet, tons of food is wasted every day.

When a team of 10 professors from the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bangalore, surveyed 75 of Bangalore’s wedding halls over six months, they recorded a wastage of over 943 tonnes of good quality food ie enough food to feed 2.6 crore people a regular Indian meal.

No doubt weddings and banquets are a huge source of food wastage, but restaurants and hotels also contribute to food wastage, though the awareness around this has grown in the last five years. While some restaurants in India employ food controllers to check food spoilage, others donate it to their staff and other personnel, and smaller standalone restaurants, donate it to orphanages. Few also reuse non-perishable food.

However, around 40% of the food produced gets wasted even before it reaches your plate. Ankit Kawatra, Founder – Feeding India, explains the journey of one grain of rice articulately in this talk. According to him, of every 10 grains, 6 never reach a home, due to poor transportation, storage and other steps in the supply chain process. Post-harvest losses in India are claimed to be almost one lakh crore rupees, amounting to almost 10% of the budget 2017-18 allocation to the agriculture sector! A faulty supply chain is a major factor.

How does food loss and food wastage cost humanity? Well, it can increase the risk of hunger/food insecurity. It results in the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas, from the landfills, and also contributes to food inflation.

Government Interventions To Reduce Wastage

Are you aware of the guest control order of 1960? It was introduced to regulate the number of guests at a wedding or a social gathering in the aftermath of Chinese aggression and Bengal famine. Recently, the government of Jammu and Kashmir has taken up a similar initiative.

To check the food wastage across supply chain, the government of India, in 2008, initiated the establishment of Food parks. Food parks provide a direct linkage from the farm to processing to markets.

Of late, a private member bill named Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill, 2016 is seeking to put a cap on wedding expenditure. The bill seems to be focusing on cutting expenditure rather than food waste. One can only hope for the inclusion of food waste control at weddings as well. In a country with only 14 private member bills becoming laws to its credit, it is to be seen if the bill makes its way through.

Governments worldwide are taking laudable and easily adaptable initiatives. Have you ever asked for a doggy bag in a restaurant? Generally out of embarrassment, most people do not ask for one. Interestingly, the Scottish government provides free doggy bags to restaurants in the country. Restaurants in France are legally obliged to provide doggy bags to their customers.

The UK has a food waste supermarket, which sells food discarded by supermarkets and food businesses, on a pay-as-you-feel basis. The supermarket has become a lifeline for several families and is part of a larger project to channelise food wastage away from landfills and to fight hunger. Finally, though food loss can be eliminated by legislation, reduction of food waste, by and large, is achieved through awareness and a little concern.

How You Can Help!

“Hunger kills more people than AIDS, Malaria, and terrorism combined,” quotes the website of the Robin Hood Army, a non-profit that aims at eliminating hunger by eliminating food waste.

Feeding India, which was founded with the object of eliminating hunger, aims to connect hunger and food waste as solutions for each other. It believes in feeding mouths, not bins. They collect the food waste from individuals, weddings, canteens, and other events and redistribute it to the needy, free of cost. Anyone can get involved to donate and become a volunteer. Started in 2014, it now operates in more than 30 cities across India and has served more than 1.4 million meals.

Robin Hood Army, a similar organisation, operates not only in India but also in Pakistan.

If you can spare 100 rupees, head to GiftAMealInIndia, a monthly initiative started by Faraz Ansari in Mumbai, or join hands with Harsh Mittal, Founder of Let’s Spread Love, an initiative that hosts Let’s Feed Bangalore, an activity that feeds those in need.

Last but not the least, make sure you don’t waste food (even a morsel).  And yes, do collaborate with such organisations when hosting a large function, where food is likely to be wasted.

Sahithi Andoju is an intern with Youth Ki Awaaz for the February-March 2017 batch.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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