“ANNAM PARABRAHMASWAROOPAM“, says our Indian philosophy which means, Food is equal to God.
While on one hand, we hear reports of Millions of our fellow beings dying in hunger, on the other, we see tons of food being thrown away, wasted or discarded for no good reason.
India has reached self-sufficiency in agricultural produce. However, recent studies, indicated here, are really distressing and make us question our claim.
- According to the 2014 Global Hunger Index (GHI), India is ranked 55th out of the 76 hungriest countries. This is worse than our neighbours – Sri Lanka (39th), Nepal (44th), Thailand (2nd), Indonesia (22nd).
- Unicef India states, “Nearly 50 per cent of children in India are underweight, with a body mass index of less than 18.5“.
- United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO) believes that nearly 17% of Indians are undernourished to lead a productive life.
- One-third of the world’s malnourished children live in India.
- According to United Nations Development Program (UNDP), about 40% of food is wasted in India.
Moreover, whenever there is uneaten/discarded food, it’s not just the food from the table or fridge that goes waste, huge amounts of land, water, and energy are also wasted.
Why do we waste so much food and what should we do about it?
Maybe you have over-indulged yourself. Or you just fell prey to the tempting discounts that were on offer. Maybe you were just too busy during the week to use those extra fruits and veggies in the fridge. Perhaps the sell-by date has passed and you chose to toss expired food because you think you might get sick. Probably you visited a restaurant, and they served you huge portions that you could not possibly finish.
We have all been in such situations all the time. What makes the difference is your response and action in these circumstances. Small changes, over time, lead to big impacts!
Here’s what you can do, as responsible fellow human beings, to minimize food waste.
- Be a WISE Shopper – Plan your meals, use shopping lists, buy from bulk bins, and avoid impulse buys. Don’t succumb to marketing tricks that lead you to buy more food than you need, particularly for perishable items. Though these may be less expensive on your pocket when you buy in bulk or at discounted rates, the resulting wastage would be counter-productive.
Remember this rule: Never go to a supermarket when you are hungry. This is the most definite way to buy more than what you can consume. A mom-and-pop store is a more efficient way to satisfy those hunger pangs. The best idea of course, is to carry something from home.
- Identify when food goes bad – “Sell-by” and “use-by” dates are not regulated by the government and do not indicate safety, except on certain baby foods. Rather, they are manufacturer suggestions for peak quality. Most foods can be safely consumed even if they are a couple of dates past their due dates. Learn to tell if food has gone bad by using your sense of smell and taste – your senses would prove you right in most cases.
- Leftovers? You have some left overs or food that might go bad soon in your fridge? Get creative with recipes to use up anything that might go bad soon.
- Eat Leftovers. Ask your restaurant to pack up your extras so you can eat them later. Freeze them if you don’t want to eat immediately. Only about half of Americans take leftovers home from restaurants.
- Maximize your Freezer Usage – Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely. Freeze fresh produce and leftovers if you won’t have the chance to eat them before they go bad. It’s for a good reason that today’s refrigerators come with big freezers!
- Request Smaller Portions. “Poochne me kya jaata hai?” – the popular tagline from Tata Docomo. What’s wrong in asking. Restaurants will often provide half-portions upon request at reduced prices. In fact, these days restaurants are urging people to order only what they can consume.
- Compost. Composting food scraps can reduce their climate impact while also recycling their nutrients. Food makes up almost 13 percent of the U.S. waste stream, but a much higher percent of landfill-caused methane.
- Donate. Non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food can be donated to local food banks, food charities, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters. Local and national programs frequently offer free pick-up and provide reusable containers to donors.
Most people wish to do something to make the lives of those less privileged than us, better. But we are clueless about how we’ll do this. There are numerous charities/NGOs where you can donate your leftover food.
So at the next wedding in your family, or even the next party that you throw, make sure to not dispose off the leftovers, keep it in clean containers, contact these charities and they will put them to good use.
1. India Food Banking Network – A food bank is a non-profit distribution system that serves the needy through feeding programs which include the ones in old age homes, schools, orphanages, substance abuse clinics and others. These food banks accept only non-perishable items like sugar, grains, pulses, flour etc, but if you get in touch with them, they will direct you to these feeding programs which use perishable food items also.
2. Akshaya Patra – The Akshaya Patra Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation headquartered in Bangalore, India. The organisation strives to fight issues like hunger and malnutrition in India. By implementing the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in the Government schools and Government aided schools, Akshaya Patra aims not only to fight hunger but also to bring children to school.
3. ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF) – ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF) believes in providing children with the right nutrition to support their education. IFRF’s annamrita program is based on the belief that ‘you are what you eat’. Therefore one nutritious meal a day brings thousands of children to school. You can help every child in this country get an education, if you donate that one wholesome meal. Presently they cater to over 12,00,000 meals every day from our 20 kitchen centers across 8 states.
4. Food Relief – Every month the Bhaktivedanta Ashram feeds over 6,000 needy children in the flood and drought afflicted areas of Orissa and Tamil Nadu, India. For every one dollar that is donated, six nourishing meals can be distributed to these needy children.
5. Food Panda – Foodpanda deeply cares about community and has partnered with various organizations to contribute towards the betterment of the under privileged. They have created a special page in order to get involved with the change of India. They have helped in providing Mid-Meals to 1.4 million children and also granting scholarships to college students. One of the few companies that believe in the importance of corporate social responsibility in India.
6. Delhi Food Banking – Implemented by the Responsenet Development Services (RDS), since its inception, together with the help of critical partners Cargill , Global Alliance For Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and DLF Foundation, the Delhi-NCR Foodbank has served 2 million nutritional meals across 30 feeding centers, galvanizing the support of over 113 companies and 70,000 individuals.
7. Chennai Food Bank – The Chennai Food Bank is one of the prestigious projects of RYA Metro Trust started about 18 years ago with members throughout the city. Since its inception, it has donated more than 1.5-crore meals to the under-privileged. With many subscribers joining, the organisation decided to involve the local community.
The change begins with you – your next shop, your next meal, your next order. Don’t waste your food if you know what’s good for you.
If you know any other food charities/NGOs, feel free to suggest them to us and we will update the list.