How many of us here were told to eat up our food because “there are so many poor people who do not get food!” I guess all of us have grown up to that refrain! It was not just prudence but empathy for the poor and an effort to avoid wastage!
Mr Bush recently accused Indians and the Chinese of depleting world food reserves due to the increase in purchasing power of the average citizen of these countries. Indians were incensed at what they think is Bush trying to tell Indians to eat less so that the US can eat more. Without delving on the merits and demerits of his statement, I decided to take a critical look at something I had blogged about earlier too.
Ten years ago when we attended weddings, the left over food was usually packed and taken home and distributed to relations and neighbors. Wastage was unheard of! Today if you were to visit a Kalyana Mantapa or Wedding Hall in Bangalore, the amount of food thrown in the dust bin will leave you sick in the stomach! Except for the lower middle classes no one thinks of taking leftovers home because it is passé besides leftovers are in such large quantities and also spoil easily! What is ironic is that at such functions people have to pay per plate consumed and then the leftover is thrown away!!
There is a Kalyana Mantapa near my home and I have seen the changes in food habits of people over the years by just observing its dustbin! Ten years ago the dustbins here were a repository of used banana leaves! Today those very same dustbins are overflowing with mounds of food and plastic ware and attract dozens of stray dogs and giant rats!
Go to any hotel kitchen and you will see the afternoon buffet spread in the dustbin by evening! Some years ago, buffets were confined to star hotels and smaller hotels and restaurants cooked against orders. The demand for faster service and increase in customer’s has made many hotels adopt wasteful tactics like pre cooked food which is thrown away if a particular dish is not ordered by customers! The high returns in the food business offsets wastages!
Smaller hotels attract customers during weekdays with Buffet spreads and these also lead to a lot of wastage as the number of customers is not predictable and subsequently the left over food has to be thrown away if the patronage was low! Indian cuisine, especially the type that is sold in hotels is resource intensive unlike Continental cuisine. This affects other commodities like Gas, Edible Oil and water and the vicious chain is complete.
There is an order of Nuns in Bangalore who collect left over food from Hotels and Wedding Halls and feed the poor. But what they collect is just a drop in the ocean of waste! It is humanly impossible to collect the entire amount of leftover food from eateries in a given day!
Whatever the US may do and no matter how much they waste food, we Indians should not use that to justify ourselves! We have a large section of the society that lives hand to mouth! While I am not advocating that we live frugal lives because of that, a little bit of thought to the poor like in “not wasting food because there are so many poor people who do not get food” would be immensely helpful!