Food wastage is a major problem in India. Weddings, canteens, hotels and households spew out so much food. To see the extent of damage, all you have to do is peek into a street-corner garbage bin. Today, most of us don’t even spare a thought for the time, energy, and resources it takes to produce our food. Moreover, food that is produced, but not eaten, occupies close to 30 per cent of the world’s agricultural land. It is estimated that one out of every seven people in the world went to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of five died due to hunger. Wastage of food is a cause of serious concern in a country like India where 37 per cent of the population lives below poverty line. A government study had found that the country wastes Rs 92,651 crore worth or 67 million tonnes of food in a year.
While there are groups of volunteers working towards food waste management in weddings, an increasing number of couples in Delhi are also coming forward to reduce food wastage when they get married. Efforts need to be taken to protect and preserve foodgrains for the benefit of the large number of poor in our society who are struggling to survive on a single meal a day.
Though our people rarely waste much food in restaurants, we as a nation waste a lot of it during marriages, festivals and other occasions without caring about the large percentage of our people that go hungry each day. The levels of poverty, hunger and deprivation are so high in our country that well-to-do citizens and politicians should rethink before wasting food. Condition of the godowns in our country is not good and that is resulting in the rotting of food grains. If foodgrains are stored properly in godowns then it will eliminate wastage and reduce the subsidy burden of the government.
The best way is to create awareness about the need to avoid wastage of food at all levels. But that alone will not solve the problem. There is a need to penalise people who are responsible for failure to preserve and protect the precious edible resources of the country a practice followed by Germany. It is time to take note of the obligation of every citizen of this country to ensure that the food wastage is totally avoided.
The wedding market in India is flourishing, with approximately 1,50,000 crores per year. But the magnitude of food losses in India dwarfs those in other countries, given the country’s size and the scale of its farm output, while the context in which this food goes to waste is also far more serious. According to official figures, about half of Indian children under the age of five are chronically malnourished, resulting in stunted growth, while 20 per cent suffer from acute malnutrition, with visible wasting. Each day, huge truckloads of produce arrive, are unloaded and then auctioned by traders to other middlemen, who repack the food in other trucks to be hauled away to far-flung places for eventual sale to consumers.
Each morsel thus wasted, in a way, contributes towards hunger. We generate mammoth amounts of food waste. The causes of food waste or loss are numerous, and occur at the stages of production, processing, retailing and consumption. Huge amounts of food is getting wasted by the people belonging to the upper strata of economy as there is no proper channel to utilise unused food. Apart from this, wasteful food-consumption is also leading to unsustainable demand for natural resources. Assessing quantity of food loss and developing effective policies along the value chain can help solve the food wastage problem and thus contribute towards food security and sustainability.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)