THE number is mind-boggling. According to the UN Environment Programme’s Food Waste Index, over 900 million tonnes of food is thrown away every year, with close to 60pc of this wasted at home. This is nothing short of criminal, considering the evil of hunger that stalks humanity. As per 2019 figures, 690m people were affected by hunger. To put things in perspective, the amount of wasted food could fill 23m trucks. These figures illustrate the fact that there is something very wrong with people’s approach towards food. While such a huge amount of food makes its way into the bin, hundreds of millions of people are forced to sleep hungry. Therefore, more efforts are required on the global level to address this issue and reduce such wanton wastage.

Primarily, to reverse the negative trend of wasting food, efforts require to be undertaken at home. Consumers should only buy and cook enough food to meet their requirements, and avoid bulk buying or preparing more than is required. This way the needless waste of edible items can be minimised. Moreover, there are several non-profits in the field that take surplus food from restaurants and other establishments and provide it to the less fortunate. This model needs to be promoted to prevent food from being thrown away, and ensuring the most vulnerable don’t starve. Aside from the strange dichotomy of massive amounts of food being thrown away at one end and millions going hungry at the other, food wastage also has a significant impact on the planet. For example, when food is consigned to garbage bins, the resources invested in growing it are wasted, while discarded food is also a major emitter of greenhouse gases. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation offers numerous tips on how to reduce food loss and food waste. These include buying only what one needs, storing food wisely, using leftovers and donating surplus food before it rots. The fact is that it will require changing personal and family habits as well as putting in place policies to prevent such massive food wastage. At the local level, the importance of not wasting food must be highlighted by the state and within communities, for example by producing public service messages on a variety of media. Taking food wastage seriously will not only be better for the earth, it will also ensure no one in our surroundings goes hungry.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2021

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