Saving food is everyone’s agenda [Archives:2008/1159/Community]

May 29 2008

By: Rajendra K. Aneja
[email protected]

The world isn't obsessed with George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, Robert Mugabe, Iran or Iraq, but rather with its own belly, naturally. In one year, rice prices have escalated 74 percent, wheat 130 percent, soybeans 87 percent and dairy products 70 percent. We are desperately short of food.

With food rioting in several nations, it's time to look at our food stocks rather than our stockpiles of weapons. Here's a 10-point plan to save food:

1. Skip one meal a week: Decades ago, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri implored Indians to skip dinner every Tuesday and it worked. If two billion people worldwide skipped one meal a week, we could feed two billion hungry people. If we go to sleep hungry, we understand how two billion people feel when they go to sleep hungry every day. Nowadays, I skip one meal per week.

2. Cut out 50 percent of parties: While it's chic for individuals and companies to throw parties at the drop of a hat, in either homes or five-star hotels, much food is wasted. If we reduced such parties by 50 percent, we could save a lot of food for those who need it.

Celebrities like Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Abhishek Bachhan and Aishwarya Rai, Jackie Chan, Shakira should skip parties for a year. Likewise, George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin should follow.

3. Store leftovers: There's always some dinner left over and normally thrown away. At least 10 percent of a family's food is wasted daily. Refrigerators and freezers give us the option to store foods for days, if not weeks.

4. Order less at restaurants: We tend to over-order at restaurants because hosts don't want to appear stingy. However, if you run out of a dish, you can always order more because restaurants replenish within minutes. This will help avoid waste. There's no shame in packing up leftover food that can be consumed later.

5. Avoid overstocking: When the international media warns of food shortages, people have a tendency to overstock basic foods in order to neutralize inflation. I too plead guilty on this one, as I've stocked up on rice, oil and wheat.

However, I reflected that if six billion people did this, we'd have chaos and the world's grain supplies would be exhausted in two months. Thus, we should avoid panic buying like I did because it creates artificial shortages.

6. Start dieting: Many of us are overweight and we dream of being thin and lean. Doctors have charts recommending weight according to our age and height, so now is the time to sack those calories.

7. Explore alternate foods: We're habituated to our national cuisines. For example, South Indians and Filipinos can't do without rice, but maybe once a week, they could try bread. Likewise, Pakistanis can't do without biryani, but maybe they could eat pasta once a week. This would help lower prices.

8. Improve storage conditions: Approximately 15 to 20 percent of food grains rot due to poor transportation and storage where insects and rats destroy food. In the U.K., 30 to 40 percent of all food is never eaten. Over the past decade, the U.K. has thrown out 15 percent of its food, with each citizen annually throwing away GBP400 worth! This crisis should trigger improvements in logistics and storage.

9. Restaurant leftovers: Every day, many restaurants throw away good food that can't be stored, but which could be given to orphanages.

10. Grow vegetables: Many people have space around their homes where they could grow tomatoes, cauliflower, green peas, etc., which could be consumed at home. This too would reduce food pressures.

The current food crisis has been created by politicians who are obsessed with war and busily canvass Nobel prizes rather than increasing the productivity of rice per hectare. They've forgotten that we must eat, aiming for the stars while the ground slips from under our feet.

These 10 simple actions won't solve the world's food crisis, nor will they provide food to all who are hungry. They are sheer common sense, but we must implement them now because they could prevent rioting and save lives.

Above everything, we will make some type of difference – small, but sure.