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.
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.
“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.