Friday, November 9, 2012


Wastage of food, whether intentional or unavoidable cannot be excused under any circumstances. While food losses incurred during harvesting, post harvest handling and distribution can be addressed by using more and more efficient technologies, what is reprehensible is throwing away food by individuals and groups attending feasts and mass feeding programs or by the families in their homes or in eateries by the customers. Such wastage can be curtailed only if people are sensitized about the criminality of their action in terms of depriving other needy people of much needed essential foods. Here is an interesting piece of report coming from a Bangalore, on some field studies regarding the possible wastage of cooked foods during marriage celebrations. Any dispassionate observer can know that this is an under estimate and the real value of waste could be much higher. Here is a take on this unfortunate practice going on unchecked or uncared by civic authorities in that city.

After the big fat wedding is done with and the guests have gone home, what remains is the litter, dirty dishes and piles of excess high-calorie food. Enough to feed lakhs of children, in a country where malnutrition has been termed a "national shame" by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Statistics show that every third malnourished child in the world is an Indian. A survey shows that annually, Bangalore alone wastes 943 tonnes of quality food during weddings. "This is enough to feed 2.6 crore people a normal Indian meal," a study by a team of 10 professors from the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bangalore, has concluded. The team, under the guidance of UAS vice-chancellor K Narayana Gowda, surveyed 75 of Bangalore's 531 marriage halls over a period of six months. "About 84,960 marriages are held at 531 kalyana mantapas (marriage halls) in Bangalore every year. About 943 tonnes of high-calorie quality food is wasted in these halls annually. At an average cost of Rs 40 per meal, the total food wastage in the city is estimated at Rs 339 crore," the study said. On an average, 1,000 people attend a wedding where two meals are served - lunch at the wedding and dinner for reception, besides breakfast. "About 10-20 items are served at a wedding ceremony. The maximum items served include 100 grams each of soup and juice, followed by 50 grams each of puri and pulao," the survey stated. It also concluded that rice and cereals were on top, making for 35% of the wastage. "On an average, a typical wedding meal is very rich in energy. Each meal may have 1,239 calories, enough to meet an entire day's requirement of a child! The wastage per meal amounted to 20% at 246 calories," said Gowda. "The survey sought to bring to light the criminal wastage of food during Indian weddings. Our aim is to create awareness and sensitize the public not to waste food. We found that food wastage was more with buffets than served meals," said professor PK Mandanna, of agricultural marketing, UAS.

There was a time in India when Guest Control Order was promulgated to curtail the tendency to organize massive dining at public events in connection with marriages though it became a cropper due to inadequate enforcement of the law by the concerned government agencies. It appears such a law is still in operation in Pakistan though its effectiveness is disputed in many quarters. Some restaurants with good conscience and real concern about food waste are reported to be "fining" those customers who leave food on their plates after filling it up with excess food which they could not consume. It was suggested that the existing system of unrestricted food serving must be replaced with limited packed foods which the guests can take home if not eaten then and there, hopefully consuming them later. Existence of Food Banks in some countries, mainly to save large quantities of food being rejected by large retailers and serve the same to the poor and the destitute is indeed laudable and that is what is required in India also.


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