Roti, kapda aur makaan – even in the order of our basic needs in life, food comes first. Yet, after so many years of civilization, our country and many countries across the world are plagued by evils like starvation and malnutrition. It is the sad truth that while a part of the world population dwells in surplus; there is another, lesser marginalized part which struggles to get even two square meals a day. What’s even sadder is not that we don’t produce enough food: We do! But that produced food is not distributed and managed properly, so much so that each year one-third of the total global production of food goes to waste. This should be a major cause for worry not just for the chefs and governments of the world, but for every global citizen.
Food wastage is something that we, as an industry, largely contribute to -- right from producing food in bulk and in excess, to a large chunk of perfectly good produce that gets discarded because of slight imperfections in shape, colour or size. Food safety standards, demanding guests and market competition are a few other factors that cause a sizable amount of consumable food to go to waste. While it might not always be possible for restaurants and hotels to tie up with NGOs and organizations that provide food to those who do not have access to it for several reasons including food safety hazards, it is very simple for us to reduce food wastage as an industry by having a better logistics of supply and demand. Reducing the options on a menu, especially in a buffet setting will also make a big difference. We need to keep sustainability and reduction in wastage at the core of our business models and realign our industry’s existing aesthetics with what they should be.
On a micro level, reducing your food wastage is one of the simplest things you can do for the environment. If we want to tackle the problem of food wastage and larger challenges like world hunger and starvation, we need to start from our homes and work places. Encourage your local sabziwala to get good quality ingredients and not necessarily good looking ones. Do not over order when eating at a restaurant. If you do, make sure you pack it up and take it home or even better give it to someone less fortunate. Be more conscious when you shop for groceries and when you cook. It will automatically make you more efficient in limiting your food waste. Also, have provision for food compost in your house, so that the food which cannot be up-cycled can at least be recycled.
Don’t hesitate to donate
On a more personal note, I believe anybody who has the means to donate must do it! It pains me to see that so many school going children in our country do not have access to even one healthy meal a day; which is why I decided to associate with Akshaya Patra, the world’s largest NGO-run mid-day meal programme for underprivileged school kids. This brilliant initiative provides mid-day meals to 1.8 million children in 16,856 schools across the country. The kind of work they do and their expanding reach year after year is commendable and it lets me make a significant contribution.
I know for sure that being able to give people their basic necessity and basic right is one of the best feelings in the world. I am sure that when you waste something as precious as food, the feeling should be the exact opposite.We often think that food wastage does not affect us, but if you think a little ahead in time you will realize, it does. With the rise in population, the demand for food is only going to increase.
It's a dynamic that can be met tomorrow, only if we learn to manage the resources we have today. It's either now or never.
(Sanjeev Kapoor is an Indian celebrity chef, entrepreneur and television personality).