For the love of food

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, wrote Cecil Francis Alexander. But despite being unique in our ways, each one us has one thing in common – the necessity of food for survival.

For human beings, food does not just feed the stomach – it feeds the soul and remains the single greatest unifier across cultures. Across the length and breadth of India, every single culture and religion uses food as part of their celebrations. In short, eating brings people together.

At the same time, a key challenge for India today is to feed our ever-growing population, even though India’s food grain production has kept steady pace with its population. One of the biggest paradoxes we face today is that this adequate food production is not sufficient to ensure food security. And it is not just India alone.

Not all food produced is consumed, as an enormous amount of it is wasted or lost in the process of delivery. Food wastage and loss is an alarming issue in the country and the world today. In India, of the total food lost, 65% loss occurs at the production stage, while the rest 35% is lost during processing, distribution and consumption. Reports from the agriculture ministry highlight the fact that Rs 50,000 crore worth of food produced is wasted in India every year. While approximately 2-5% of this is direct wastage from our plates, the larger chunk lies in the food that is either spoilt or lost due to various issues like storage, timely transfer etc.

But while we think that the problem of food loss is bigger than ourselves, food wastage is everyone’s problem. Whether it’s weddings, restaurants, hotels or even our own homes and the canteens in our offices, the amount of food that goes into our trash cans is of gargantuan proportions. Food wastage is not for big companies to provide a solution to but the answer lies with each one of us.

And it’s not just the wastage of the material. Approximately 8% of the global greenhouse gas emissions are due to food loss and wastage. In India, the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from large food categories like dairy, cereals etc. amount to 55 million tonnes of CO2, which is approximately 3% of the country’s emissions. Wasting food also means wasting water or land, essential constituents to food production. 25% of freshwater used to grow food is wasted because of our habits. And the money associated is of course enormous!

If we want to live in a world where food security and better climate are realities, we have to rethink our food practices. We need to give up on food wastage to give back to the earth that provides this food.