As children growing up we tucked into our fill of candy, ice cream and all the junk items that we can lay our hands on, not sparing a thought to the millions who go without a decent meal on a daily basis. It's the same story when we grow up. We indulge ourselves and fill our plates to capacity - what we can't finish we leave. We waste a precious meal, again not thinking about those who are going hungry.
Here are some facts worth chewing on:
• According to UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, about 795 million people are undernourished. That's one in nine people. Around 98% of them are from developing countries.
• Some parts of the world are more deprived of food than others. Asia is home to 525.6 million undernourished people, Sub-Saharan Africa to 214 million and Latin America and the Caribbean to 37 million
India alone needs to face certain alarming realities:
• Despite being the second largest producer of fruits and cereals, third in marine production and with livestock than anywhere else in the world, India is able to process only 2% of its food resources.
• Every year, food worth Rs 44,000 crore is wasted due to a lack of adequate cold storage.
• Sharad Pawar, a former agriculture minister, has noted that about 40% of India's agricultural produce is wasted.
• India wastes around 21 million tonnes of wheat - that's as much as Australia's annual crop!
So, what do we do to tackle the problem of food wastage and ensure that less people go to bed hungry at night and that fewer people suffer from undernourishment? At a national level, agriculture must be developed and given more importance. Secondly, job creation will allow people to earn enough to buy the food that they need. Thirdly, good cold storage facilities are absolutely crucial as is evident from the data on food wastage. Finally, creating effective and far-reaching nutrition programs will generate awareness, especially for parents who do not understand the importance of a balanced diet for their children.
Ultimately, one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted each year - that is 1.3 billion tonnes. So, what can you do to reduce the amount of food you waste on a daily basis?
Here's how you can make a difference at home:
• Use overripe fruits to make juices and smoothies instead of throwing them out.
• Ensure that you store food in airtight containers at the recommended temperatures so that they retain their nutrients and freshness.
• Buy only as much food as you need for a day or two to ensure that it doesn't go bad by the time you're ready to eat it.
• If you have excess food that you know you cannot use, donate it to someone who needs it. Just make sure it hasn't expired and is edible.
• Get creative with leftovers and refashion them into new dishes, such as parathas, tikkis or even fillings for sandwiches.
In America, an app called PareUp developed by Anuj Jhunjhunwala, Margaret Tung and Jason Chen connects those willing to sell excess grocery items at discounted rates with consumers. Let's hope something like this becomes available in India too.