Hot soups, crispy starters, a wide range of curries, creamy varieties of pasta, piping hot jalebis, melt in your mouth gulab jamuns…How many of us are guilty of getting a little too excited and loading our plate with every dish in sight, when at a buffet or a wedding or any party?

According to a report by the UN that was released in 2019, an average person in India wastes around 50kg of food every year. Millions of tons of food get wasted every year across the world.

The problem of Food wastage

“There are three major reasons for food being wasted from a food services perspective. Around 10% to 15% of food gets wasted during pre-preparation of a meal and in getting things ready. Miscalculated ordering of food by people accounts for around 50% to 60%. How many times have we seen people visit a restaurant with unlimited buffets, and put in too much food on their plate and they find it difficult to finish it. The food sent back from a table in a restaurant cannot be used again. And also shelf life for
every food item is different. A food item cannot be used beyond its expiry date or shelf life. Improper planning of food items also results in food wastage. Minimal amounts of food wastage happens due to temperature abuse, food being burnt and cooking wastage.” says Mr. Amey Marathe, chef, hospitality consultant and F&B specialist.

Amey had started an organization that focuses on food waste management called JSAmey Biotech in 2018.“JSAmey Biotech is a startup that offers an effective food management for hospitality industry. The startup works in converting food waste into Biofuel. It has been in R&D until March and will be fully functional by the end of 2021. Our startup will help cities get better in food waste management,” shares Amey.

Talking about effects of food waste, Chef Amey also adds, “99% of food wastage in India goes untreated into landfills. The wastage gets fermented and releases greenhouse gases like methane. Greenhouse gases are harmful for the environment and the main cause of global warming.”

An NGO called Don’t Waste Food, collects leftover food from functions, parties, hotels and feeds needy people. Malleswara Rao, founder of the NGO relates, “Loads of food goes unused in hotels and restaurants in cities like Hyderabad. The major portion of food wastage also is due to the excess preparations during ceremonies. Donating this food to the needy and hungry will be a boon and also reduces the amount of food being wasted.”

Even before the food could possibly reach its consumer, nearly 40% (according to Food and Agricultural Organization) of the food in India is wasted everyday because of inefficient supply chains and fragmented food systems.

India and The problem of Food security

The food paradox in India is that on one side there is food wastage, and even though India is one of the largest food producers in the world, a lot of Indians themselves lack the basic necessity of survival, that is food. The situation of global pandemic is surely not helping as there is severe loss of income leading to severe crisis for the poor. According to a report by the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018, In India 195.9 million people go hungry every day; 14.9 percent of the population is
undernourished. 51.4 percent of women in reproductive age – between 15 and 49 years – are anemic.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

Sustainable development and the importance of Food Safety

Back in 2015, All members of the United Nations adopted a 2030 agenda of Sustainable development. The 17 SDGs adopted by UN member states are SDG1- No poverty, SDG 2-Zero hunger, SDG3-Good health and well-being, SDG4- Quality education, SDG 5- Gender equality, SDG 6- Clean water and sanitation, SDG 7- Affordable and clean energy, SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth, SDG 9- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

In 2020, India’s rank was 115 and unfortunately, in 2021 it has further dropped down to 117 on The Sustainable Development Goals. India ranks below four South Asian countries — Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, it said. The overall SDG score of India is 61.9 out of 100.

This drop is because major challenges like ending hunger and achieving food security (SDG 2), achieving gender equality (SDG 5) and building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation (SDG 9) remain incomplete in the country.

Food safety is another important aspect of Sustainability. Dr GV Ramanjaneyulu, is a scientist who has transformed the landscape of Indian agriculture with his organization called Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA).

He emphasises on making sure the food that consumers buy is healthy and says they must be aware of the ecological footprints of the food they consume, “First, know your food – how it is grown, who has grown it, and where. You should know what your food did to the environment before coming onto your plate and what it carries along with it. Food is only as safe as it is produced.” He advises, “We need to be more sympathetic towards the people who are producing the food – find out how much of the consumers’ price is going to the farmer.”

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