Did you know? About 40 % of the food gets wasted in India.
Despite adequate food production, the UN has reported that about 190 million Indians remain undernourished. According to a survey, the value of food wastage in India is around ₹92,000 crores per annum. These are some bleak statistics. But they should help us realize the magnitude of food waste, as much as inequity, in India.
The world recognizes that no truly sustainable and developed country can exist without tackling the food waste issue. The challenges in front of us are monumental. Therefore, strategies need to be adopted
On average, 18.7 kgs of food discarded of daily. It suggests that an estimated 7.5 tonnes of food are discarded daily across Delhi.
People threw approximately 84.7% of the total food waste in the bin. While the rest was either fed to the poor or some animals.
A significant portion of the food waste binned was still inedible condition.
If the edible food waste generated is diverted, we estimate that it could feed at least 2000 people daily.
Only 2 of the 10 were partially waste-conscious, i.e., they separated the edible from the inedible, and ensured that food in consumable condition reached empty stomachs. One of them disposed of their food at noon. So, cows can eat that food in the area. Others claimed to give free food to the local laborers and workers.
Overall, we could conclude that, across the city, a lack of consciousness around food waste is evident. Indeed, the issue of food wastage is much more rooted in the actual handling, storage, and transport of food grains and vegetables, before they even reach the consumer’s plate.
At the retail level, the matter of food waste need not overlook. In Delhi only, an estimated 7.5 tonnes of food waste away per day.
One can only imagine how large the number is across all food retail outlets in Delhi and how much more across India.
What We Can Do!
If the waste deal with premeditatedly after production, we can pioneer the zero food waste movement in India. These must be institutionalized and made part of the process in every outlet.
Feed people with edible food: Edible food for free should be made available every day, at the latest in the last opening hour. So, it can be picked up and consumed by those in need. The option of distribution through food banks can also be explored, as can tie-ups with private actors so that food can reach hunger hotspots.
Feed Animals and Compost: Not all food is fit for human consumption, but almost all are fit for cattle and piggeries. That should channel via local actors. Only the remaining food waste should convert to compost.
What is already happening in India and around the world?
Some problems in the Indian food supply chain include inefficiency of government programs, lack of transparency in revenue generation, insufficient storage facilities, and lack of comprehensive and accurate inventories.
In early 2017, the Indian Government had asserted the need for food waste regulation at hotels, restaurants, and weddings. It has not yet specifically addressed concerns posed by the retail sector.
The Department of Consumer Affairs acknowledged the complexity of regulating overindulgence in purchase and consumption rates (Report on food wastage caused by the hospitality industry). The solution to the food waste problem in India is to increase awareness and education of food wastage. Print and electronic media can accomplish this goal.
Yes, early awareness of our duty to minimize food waste is critical. It will help in changing the behavior of our society about hunger and food scarcity. However, we must also adopt easy-to-implement and efficient measures that retail sectors in other countries have already developed. It will help us understand. How can our distribution system cope with the need for millions of hungry fellow Indians?
We can look to best practices and laws in countries like France, Norway, Denmark, UK, etc., to check spoilage and destruction of edible food waste in India. For example, in France, supermarkets prioritize the reduction, reuse, and recycling of extra food.
Similarly, in India, partnerships with charity organizations and food banks are integral to ensuring the donation of extra food from retail outlets to those in need. Food should not donate after the sell-by date. Convert it into compost or bio-fuel for retail delivery trucks.
Some initiatives can help reduce food wastage. That includes removing expiry dates from non-perishable commodities (like salt, sugar, etc.). It allows discounts on single items (such as a separated banana), removing general store promotions (such as buy-one-get-one-free), and making mandatory messages about food waste in retail advertisements. Besides that, mandatory employee-training on food waste prevention can change how the retail industry approaches food supply.
Cities like Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and even Gurugram, are increasingly embracing community fridges in combating hunger. Installing community fridges outside retail outlets is indeed a compassionate way of providing free food access to those in need. Finally, India has had a rich tradition—one that we are fast losing—of using almost every part of a fruit or vegetable as food.
Time-bound, stringent, and measurable actions are necessary at all levels. Reducing and eventually eliminating food waste needs to be incentivized and encouraged across sources. These sources include restaurants, banquets, weddings, canteens, and retail outlets. All stakeholders must form a partnership to identify how to do this.
Eventually, each city should have a plan in place to tackle food waste. Consciousness around the extent and types of food waste needs to convey. Recipes for leftovers, fines for wastage in restaurants, reduced prices for misshapen fruits and vegetables and community fridges are some ways to engage and inform.
If we want a sustainable India then everyone must join hands. So our country does not have millions of undernourished despite having adequate food production.
Author: Rtr. PP. Rangeesh
Club: Rotaract Club of Patna City
RID# – 3250