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The Alarming Reality of Food Wastage in India

Our traditionally beautiful and diverse country is facing an imminent crisis that impacts not only the economy but also the ecosystem. Food waste, particularly at the household level, has reached historic levels, with far-reaching effects. So, we will look at the economic and environmental costs of food waste in India, shine light on the regions where food goes to waste, and highlight what India is doing and can do to address this major issue. Furthermore, we will provide practical advice for individuals to help reduce food waste.

The Alarming Numbers: The statistics on food waste in India are disappointing. According to the UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021, India wastes 68.76 million tonnes of food each year, which is around 40% of the country’s total food production. This is a huge loss given the country’s ironic reality of starvation and food scarcity. Read in detail how this food wastage Index report is calculated here: [ ] According to an IndiaTimes story, the FSSAI has declared that one-third of all food in India is wasted or ruined before it is consumed.

Where it all happens: In India, one of the primary sources of food waste is at the household level. The need for lavish feasts and the tendency of overcooking can contribute greatly to this problem. According to the Times of India, the average person wastes roughly 50 KG of food per year. While this may appear to be a small amount, it adds up to a massive amount in a country with over a billion people. In addition to households, major gatherings such as weddings, hotels, restaurants, and movie theatres contribute to food waste.

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Buffets at lavish weddings frequently include more food than guests can eat, and the excess is usually dumped in the garbage. “I have seen it happen in almost all of the weddings I’ve attended. It’s not just the people who do big weddings that do this. These days, it has become a practice to get more food than needed for weddings, just in case. Some of them do give the excess food to their close friends and families. But most just waste it.” A 50-year-old Business Owner named Shajahan said to TTL when we asked his opinion. Similarly, food portions in hotels and restaurants are sometimes larger than needed, and uneaten food frequently ends up in the trash. Also, at movie theatres, people frequently trash uneaten snacks and popcorn, adding to the overall problem.

Economic and Environmental Consequences: Food waste has significant economic effects in India. Food waste affects the resources used in its production, such as labour, water, and land. This has a direct influence on the livelihoods of the agriculture sector’s many farmers and labourers. In 2022, reported that India loses over Rs 900 billion because of food wastage annually. Food waste has an equally significant environmental impact. Food rotting in landfills produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. The waste of resources essential in food production, such as water and energy, increases the environmental imprint. As a result, eliminating food waste is critical in the context of both climate change and resource conservation.

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How Food Content Creators contribute to this issue: Mukbang creators and food influencers in India have grown in popularity on social media platforms in recent years. These content creators consume massive amounts of food while providing reviews on camera. While mukbang videos are fun for their viewers, the excessive food used in the filming process has sparked concerns about food waste. Some Indian mukbangers, such as Ashifa ASMR and Akshanshu Aswa, have come under fire for their massive food displays before. Even if they say they donate excess food or finish what they eat, the extreme nature of food intake in these videos may unknowingly promote unethical practices among the viewers. Viewers may be motivated to replicate similar approaches in their own lives, such as attempting food challenges and leaving uneaten food behind.

What our country is currently doing about this: Recognising the gravity of the situation, India has launched a number of initiatives to reduce food waste. To urge citizens to contribute excess food to the poor, the government set up the ‘Save Food, Share Food’ campaign in 2022. Organisations like Feeding India and Robin Hood Army have taken up the responsibility of distributing excess food from restaurants and events to the underprivileged too. In an Instagram post celebrating the journey of his organisation, Feeding India, Ankita Kawatra says “Feeding India was started in 2014 when I witnessed foods for thousands being wasted at an Indian wedding. Today Feeding India is the largest Non-profit solving hunger and food wastage in the country. We’ve ultimately grown beyond everyone’s expectations.”

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How Individuals Can Tackle Food Wastage: While government initiatives and organisations play an important role, everyone can do their part to reduce food waste. Here’s how:

Plan Meals: Plan your meals ahead of time and just buy what you need. This prevents the possibility of overbuying and food being wasted because of it.

Use Leftovers Creatively: Get creative with your leftovers. To keep food from going bad, turn last night’s dinner into something new and enticing.

Portion Control: Be mindful of portion sizes, especially when dining out. If necessary, request smaller quantities and keep a box on hand to take home any leftovers.

Donate: Instead of wasting food, try donating it to a local food bank or shelter. Many organisations are working hard to share extra food. You can also simply give it to any homeless people in the area where you live.

Proper Storage: Purchase proper food storage containers and understand how to store food to improve its shelf life.

Composting: If food goes bad, compost it to decrease its environmental impact. By becoming more aware of our food intake and following practical steps to prevent waste, every Indian can help to reduce this massive problem and contribute to a more sustainable and economic future.

Sources: UNEP, Scroll, Times of India

By, Ashbiha Fatima

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