Autumn months are among the busiest ones in restaurants. Irrespective of any other social or economic changes, the Christmas crowd has never changed. A last table talk of the year started at table 10 with a unique lady with no bags or fatigue of Oxford Street shopping crowd. Vidya looked rather chilled in her appearance and mannerism as we talked about the food waste catastrophe.
When it comes to a Christmas spree, food is as important as clothes and other things. People have the habit of buying extra food during holidays, especially in the past when shops were shut during the break while homes were full of family. Holding a book called Global Food Waste Scandal by Tristram Stuart, Vidya talked about the practice of wasting food in the West while millions live in hunger around the world. “Why do you need new clothes every season and more food than you could eat?” she asked.
Indeed, that was food for thought, and we walked around some supermarket bins early next morning. We saw fresh food being thrown away, sometimes just on its expiry date while it was still edible. It was only the tip of the iceberg. Industrial farmers discard chunks of their harvest when they don’t match the strict cosmetic standards imposed by supermarkets.
This fascinating study helped us to understand the gravity of food wastage and urged us not to buy more than we needed. It’s so common to see people fill up their fridge with too much food. Our system has got so used to excess produce and nobody cares about wasted stuff. With tempting deals like ‘buy two packets and get the third one free’, super markets tempt you to buy more.
Supermarket culture has expanded across the world. So we could well imagine the importance of this task of controlling food waste so that it could be better distributed to the poor and needy. There are some food chains that donate their leftover meals to shelter homes and to the homeless. But that’s still only a small percentage of the food world. Awareness has to reach everyone as we get closer to the demand to produce 50 per cent extra food by 2050 to feed the global population of around 9 billion.
Thousands of bread slices are rejected from bakeries around our cities. In the US, almost 60 per cent of fish is thrown away as waste in the sea. Tristram Stuart revealed an alarming statistics—approximately 40 million tonnes of food is wasted by US households, retailers and food services, that could easily feed one billion malnourished people of the world.
The US and Europe have nearly twice as much as they require by the nutritional standards of their population. As the West is learning faster to control waste (17.5 per cent reduction from 20 per cent in the UK), this phenomenon gets infected to developing countries with thriving economies and faster lifestyle to match western culture. Though technology has new answers to turn waste into renewable energy, it has becomes a new business model in many European countries. But controlling waste could save a third of the entire food supply in the world.
It was a sublime conversation with Vidya around a simple meal, there’s so much we could do to make this world a better place and facilitate everyone to eat healthy and fresh food. “Please don’t waste food,” Tristram Stuart appeals to the world.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants