After drinks, it is the food which is under attack. The NDA government is preparing to fix portion size of dishes served by hotels and restaurants (not including dhabas that serve thalis). The decision came a fortnight after PM Narendra Modi expressed his concern about wastage of food in feasts in his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ . He also termed wastage of food as injustice to the poor.
How does the government plan to tackle this problem?
The ministry is drafting a questionnaire for hotels and restaurants to explain what dish sizes they should serve to a customer.
“They are the experts. They should tell us the maximum amount of a dish a person can eat. You go to a Chinese restaurant; they give you so much (of food). We are going to call them (stakeholders) for a meeting. The PM is concerned about food wastage and so we are going to issue instructions to these hotels (about the amount of food to be served),” says Ram Vilas Paswan, minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution.
Is not eating all you order the real problem?
While wastage of food at feasts or ordering more than necessary at restaurants is responsible for food shortage for the needy. It is not all.
On the Global Hunger Index, India is at 55. (Sept, 2016)
According to a study by the International Food Policy Research Institute, one-sixth of India’s population is undernourished, while 190 million people go to bed hungry daily.
A total of 30% children below the age of 5 years are underweight.
The real problem is in transportation and storing of food.
According to an agriculture ministry study, India is growing more food but also wasting up to 67 million tonnes of it every year. That’s more than the national output of Britain, and enough food for Bihar, one of India’s larger states, for a whole year. The value of the food lost – Rs 92,000 crore — is nearly two-thirds of what it costs the government to feed 600 million poor Indians with subsidised ration under the National Food Security programme.
How does the waste happens?
This wastage happens because of improper handling, lack of on farm weather proof storage and lack of refrigeration at the supplier end.
Solutions given in the report
Standardise food sorting practices, invest in storage and mechanise farm operations. All this is easier said than done but the burden of not doing all this is far more damaging for the country, as the report suggest.
More important to remember is that food wastage goes beyond just this; it is wastage of water when millions of Indians don’t have water for drinking and sanitation and also degradation of land.
Approximately 45% of India’s land is degraded primarily due to deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, and excessive groundwater extraction to meet the food demand. Then there is loss of manpower and electricity.
India, however, is not unique in the level of its losses. According to United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization, 42% of fruit and vegetables grown in the Asia-Pacific region, and up to 20% of the grain, fail to reach consumers because of poor post-harvest handling.
According to 2014 study by the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, cold storage facilities are available for just 10% of India’s perishable produce – and are mostly used for potatoes.
How other countries dealt with the problem?
In France, it is against the law for supermarkets to dump surplus food, retailers redistribute 100,000 tonnes to charity.
Italy donates 86,000 tonnes to charity following the introduction of laws.
In Denmark, the government backed a waste supermarket has helped reduce food waste supermarket has helped reduce food waste after other initiatives helped reduce food waste 25% in 5 years.
While transporting and storing is a problem. Aren’t we as inviduals not responsible for wasting food by not planning better? Going on a shopping spree and buying everything in sight and throwing most of it away later maybe rare but taking more than we can eat, guilty as charged.
Even though its motives are noble the government’s step may not be enough to tackle food wastage problem. The step taken by the government paints it in totalitarian light. Will the government be watching everything we eat and how much we eat? How will the government even implement it?
It’s focus should be on socially innovative solutions to address food wastage, redistribution of food for human consumption and changing consumer behaviour.
It is our time to do our bit to help in whatever way we can.
Solutions are welcomed in the comment box.
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