Ankit, a successful businessman, sat down to dinner with some business associates at a five-star hotel. Over the next hour or so, he toyed with his food and, since he was not particularly hungry, ate just a few morsels. Almost the entire plate was returned, to be dumped into the waste bin. Outside, the driver of his hired car was waiting for Ankit to take him home. Hungry, as he had not eaten since morning, he hoped to pick up something to eat at the dhaba near his house, if he made it on time. Otherwise, he would have to go to bed hungry ~ something he did quite often. This paradox, where so much food is wasted even as a huge chunk of our population goes hungry, is a sad reality. Ironically, even the rich countries of this world are unable to escape this problem. They too have their share of poor, who cannot afford two square meals a day. While governments in all countries are trying to resolve this issue, several organisations are fighting an uphill battle to feed the hungry. Seeking donations and volunteers is one way while many have embarked upon collecting excess and leftover food and distributing it to the needy.

Wasteful celebrations

India has a huge list of festivals, where food forms an essential part of celebrations. To add to the list are weddings and parties, where the hosts’ hospitality is judged by the food served. Because we Indians love to eat as well as feed, the amount of food wasted is quite appalling. Results thrown up by several surveys conducted by reputed food organisations are shameful, to say the least, as they point to the amount of food wasted. At each point of celebration, they say, 20-40 per cent of food is wasted. Solutions to this problem exist, say activists. Every city has a list of organisations that merely have to be informed about the excess food, which is then collected. Not many either know of these organisations or care about the waste food, which can feed many a hungry mouth.

The problem

Hunger is a problem that plagues the entire nation. Each year in India, 2.5 million weddings take place and the concept of big fat Indian weddings centres around food. With lavish cooking and huge amounts of food, wastage is inevitable.

According to one report, 33-50 per cent of all food produced globally is never eaten. In other words, one-third of the food produced in the world gets wasted on a daily basis. The value of this wasted food is worth over 1 trillion dollars. The excess food that is wasted is enough for hunger to be abolished. World over, some 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. That is, one in nine people on the planet are starving. Every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger.

India, despite its economic progress, still has the highest amount of people, who sleep hungry daily. Not only this, a large number of children suffer from malnutrition due to lack of food.

The hospitality sector is known to be the most wasteful of all. Most of the restaurants, hotels and the food service industry have a tendency to over-prepare food. The purpose behind this is understandable, as it is in anticipation of high customer volume. The industry is forced to provide high quality and quantity of food portions to survive the competition. The necessity of not running out of menu is the reason for over-preparation, which often leads to wastage if the food remains unsold. This food ultimately goes waste as producing high quality food for presentation and taste leads to a large amount of food being wasted in the process. When a customer leaves food on the plate, due to huge portion or any other reason, food is again put to waste.

There is a cost involved in the disposal and transport of waste as well as labour costs. The hotel industry needs to look into efficient ways to bring savings from cost incurred and help in waste management. Mass production of food waste from hotel industry is such a big challenge that there is a huge requirement to develop a holistic framework for waste management.

At the same time, it is necessary for governments to keep record of the people who do not have access to a basic meal that is required for a person to survive as there are an enormous number of people dying due to malnutrition in many regions of India. Experts opine that bringing the two together ~ helping hotels manage their excess food and feeding the hungry ~ is a way out to resolve both issues.

Utilising waste

Food wastage is a global problem, but it can be resolved and each one of us can do something about it. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. India, while being one of the countries with the highest GDP rate, also has the highest number of people sleeping on an empty stomach every night. There is an immediate need to work upon this issue because it affects the economy and death rates simultaneously

The simplest way to prevent wasting food starts from each of our homes. Restaurants and weddings are where largest amount of food is wasted. “In every wedding or any kind of parties, food is the element that is considered the most important. And it is also the one, which is wasted the most. In almost all events 20-50 per cent of the food is not eaten and wasted. But now we have come up with this decision to provide this leftover food to the ones who need it,” said Pradeep Sharma, a caterer.

Happily, there are several organizations and communities working upon this issue and that too with great enthusiasm. With the object of eliminating hunger, these organisations aim to connect hunger and food waste as solutions for each other. They believe in feeding the mouth, not the bin.

Major concern

The basic idea of these organisations is to collect leftover food from parties, restaurants, weddings, cafes and even from homes to deliver it to the poor and needy. There are some major apprehensions that are needed to be kept in mind while collecting the food from different spots.

One aspect that is the most important for these organisations while they provide food to the needy is proper nutrition. They basically collect the food keeping in mind the nutrition content as junk or unhealthy will affect the health of the growing kids and even the people living in harsh conditions and who work as labour and so need food that might help them with nutrition.

Quantity is another factor that is concerned when it comes to collecting food and distributing it to the hungry. These organisations keep track of the quantity that they collect and how many people would be fed with that food. An estimate is always kept of the number of people, who are fed with the collected food.

Hunger heroes

Communities or organisations serving food to the poor make sure that the food is clean and edible. Empowering some dedicated youth, these organisations have these young heroes, who take out time from their busy schedules and work with enthusiasm for the welfare of the poor sections of the society to help them meet their hunger needs. The backbone of the management, these aspiring individuals are a bunch of dedicated “Hunger Heroes”. They have taken up leadership roles with added responsibilities. Coming from diverse backgrounds, they all have one common motive and passion for uprooting hunger. Other services that these organisations provide is the midday meals to the schools, anganvaadis and crèches, which helps the management of the schools to invest the financial assets into the studies and other resources for the children. Also, when the children are served food together, there is a sense of equality within them as well as for others. Everyone is served good food from the same place, at the same place and with the same respect.