Feed Back Please!
First things first. A quick but fervent ‘thank you’ goes out to whoever is responsible for the plate of food that I dig into every meal time. I might take it for granted but I know that I am one of the lucky ones. Billions around the world are not so lucky. In fact, almost one third of the population in my own country goes to bed without dinner, on most nights. I am aware of that, so I am thankful.
But wait, if I know this, why is not my plate empty when I finish? Oh, what remain are mostly bits of vegetables or fruits or lumps of cereals. Things that I leave uneaten because I am too full or too fussy. But sometimes it is more than that. The second helping of a rich dessert, or a milk product I am allergic to. Portions of leftover food, which when put together, can actually make a complete meal. And where does it go when I am done with it? Dumped in the bin of course. Can we afford to let our leftovers go waste? Can we afford to throw away ANY food?
India houses 20 per cent of the Earth’s population (1.1 billion out of 7.30 billion). The number keeps rising. But our portion of he global resources of water and farmlands is only about five per cent. And even this meagre share is depleting, as it gets degraded or dry. Worldwide, the demand of food puts immense pressure on natural resources, especially forests and water. Almost 80 per cent deforestation is triggered by the need to acquire more land to grow food crops. Less than one percent of freshwater available can be used for agriculture. Irrigation systems are under stress everywhere. After the production stage, it is the transportation of food which takes a huge toll on environment. Any food item, today, on an average travels at least 1,500 to 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to reach our plates, and obviously burns large volumes of fossil fuel on its way.
So, food costs. Not to waste it is an environmental and economic responsibility. But have we learnt to shoulder it yet?
Mr Arora went to attend a wedding reception. The menu was elaborate and the food delicious. But even after the 500 guests, inlcuding Mr Arora, were fed and taken care of, containers were still overflowing with goodies. He had seen the same in many such events, but this time Mr Arora decided to investigate. “What will you do with all the leftover food?,” he asked the catering staff. “We shall eat some, and then ask the hosts to take the rest home,” answered one of the boys. But another one was shaking his head. “Very few of them actually pack it all up. Mostly the hosts are too busy to bother about extra food. So we just dump it in the bins,” he said. “Why don’t you give it away?”, asked a perturbed Mr Arora. “There are some stray beggars around, but where will we go looking for more starving people at this time of the night?”, the caterer demanded to know.
And he is not the only culprit anyway. The restaurants we dine in, the super markets where we shop, are all party to this crime of food wastage
The volume of such throw-aways can hardly be sniffed at. According to a study conducted by the University of Arizona, US, upermarkets, restaurants and convenience stores in the US alone dish out 27 million tonnes of waste foodstuff, worth a gut-wrenching US $30 billion.
We Feed the World, a documentary on wasted foodstuff, draws the viewers’ attention to such startling facts. Here are some:
But instead, it is the pile of garbage that grows.
Wasting food comes naturally to some one who has always been served more than she can consume. Ashok Ghai, manager of a fast food chain outlet in an up market mall says, “We keep our ingredients ready and prepare only ‘on order’. This way we can keep cooked food waste to a minimum. But what can we do with the food customers leave on their plates? We can’t help the mountains of remains inside our garbage bags.
” To counter this problem, some restaurants now offer smaller portions at a discounted rate. The ‘Right price, Right portion’ menu allows customers to choose the amount they can consume. This way they can get a cheaper meal and eat exactly as much they want to.
Garbage is the waste generated from our kitchen. It consists of food material only, as compared to trash-- which is waste from stuff other than food. India produces 42.0 million tonnes of municipal solid waste annually.30- 55 per cent of this is garbage.
Are you an active contributor to the avoidable asset of garbage or not? Answer the questions listed here and find out.
When you dine out, and there is extra food on the table, do you get it packed for home?
When a vegetable that you don’t like, is cooked at home for dinner, and the leftovers land up in the refrigerator, what you do with it?
When you are organising a party and serving a buffet dinner, what do you do with the surplus food?
If your answers are mostly option 1 and 2, tell us your address, for your bin must be a feast for dumpster divers. And if your answers are mostly 3 and 4, we would still like to cross check with Mr Bin, for he never lies. Not that we think you do, but a similar study done in garbology advises us to crosscheck. The Tucson Garbage project, reveals that what people voluntarily say in a survey does not match with what their bins contain. Dr. William Rathje, Professor, University of Arizona, once set out with his students to examine such patterns They found that like alcohol consumption, food wastage was many times more than what an individual admits to.
I compost. So can I throw?
Food waste is bio-degradable and non toxic, so what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that we can’t throw. Cooked food, cannot be composted. Only uncooked vegetable peels, tea bags, coffee bags and garden waste are fit for that. Cooked food can only rot. And while rotting, emit a gas called methane. And did you know that methane is a potent green house gas that contributes significantly to global warming? Globally, methane emissions from landfills are estimated to be between 30 and 70 million tonnes each year. Landfill gas is by composition 40-60 per cent methane and the rest consists primarily of carbon di oxide. The UK-based Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) says that if we stop throwing out edible food, the impact it would have on CO2 emission levels would be equivalent to that of taking one in five cars off the road
We present to you some solutions. Really easy and doable ones, some of which you might have already thought of yourself. Because just as cooking and consuming a balanced meal requires common sense, managing leftovers also needs large dollops of the same ingredient.
1. Take and give
2. Innovate and Imbibe
3. Fuel it up
Now, that was a lot of FOOD for thought. Lets not WASTE it.