By Saman Siddiqui
It’s a part of routine for many of us, our plates are stuffed with food and when unable to finish, the leftovers are easily scraped off into the bin. On many occasions, after large meals the leftover food is thrown away. It’s a common practice for many of the households without conceptualizing the magnitude of the global food waste. The problem is bigger than we think. We are all responsible for wasting food. And there is a war on food waste in many countries. The amount of food lost and wasted every year is equal to more than half of the world’s annual cereal crop.
If taken seriously food waste is a national issue. Pakistan is a resourceful country the amount of food produced here can be sufficient for feeding the population, but lack of resources for food management and its distribution is the main problem. The food items include major commodities such as wheat, rice and sugar besides different vegetables and fruits. On the Global Hunger Index out of 118 developing countries, Pakistan is ranked at 107. To add more to these alarming statistics, it is estimated that 40% of food produced in Pakistan is wasted.
It’s a good sign that food banks are being set across the country, which try to reach out the hunger struck population. They collect the surplus food from various places and provide to the needy people. This food after collection goes through quality assurance and after being sorted out is packed in small packages to be distributed.
Many NGOs are working for this cause, to utilize extra cooked food and give it to people who cannot afford a proper meal. This practice is conducted worldwide. A similar organization started this work in Pakistan. In Karachi the Robin Hood Army commenced its activities in February 2015. Since its commencement it has fed millions in Karachi. Areas for food distribution are identified through scouting. The campaign is run by volunteers who are working professionals, students which also include school children.
In Karachi more than 25 local eateries are contributing their leftover food for charity. In a detailed conversation with the representative of Robin Hood army Karachi, I was informed about the names of these restaurants but disclosing their names would not be fair. Many restaurants have their own policy for leftover food instead of throwing it away; they simply feed the poor on their own. Such deeds are not high lightened in the media. But people should be encouraged for such practices.
There is a war on food waste in many countries, like in France where the supermarkets have been banned from throwing away unsold food and restaurants must provide doggy bags when asked. By taking remarkable steps, France has secure top spot among the countries in food sustainability. France is the first country to introduce specific food waste legislation and loses only 1.8% of its total food production each year. By 2015 plans it further plans to reduce it to half.
Food sustainability is something which is being considered in the government’s agenda across the world. It is unethical and immoral to waste food resources when hundreds of millions of people remain hungry all across the world. We shouldn’t be relying on government, organizations, NGOs, food banks who work for reducing food waste. There is a need to adopt and promote a lifestyle that encourages sustainability for food resources and generate awareness for food waste reduction.
Planning, preparing and storing food on an individual level can contribute to reducing food waste on a household level. Be mindful of old ingredients and leftovers you need to consume at first. By doing this you will waste less and may even find a new favorite dish by utilizing leftovers. Refrain from impulse buying your food items. When most of the items are kept neglected in refrigerators and ultimately discarded ending in bins. By making small changes in how you shop for, prepare, and store food, you can not only save time but also money.
In 2012, the Food Network channel premiered a cooking show featuring world’s renowned chefs ‘The Big Waste’. The main feature of this cooking show was that the chefs who were competing in pairs to prepare a gourmet banquet meal, used food which was only intended for the landfill. That episode drew attention towards the issue of food waste.
If you can’t reduce wasted food, divert it from landfills. Landfill waste emits CO2 and methane, both of which are hazardous to the environment. Safe and untouched food can be donated to help those in need. Just look at the food wasted at weddings in Pakistan in particular. Together, this food can feed millions of people who go hungry. You can donate excess food to Robin Hood Army, who will surely collect and provide for the needy.