Save It on the Platter
Shalini Mitra
December , 2018

Roughly one third of the food is produced in the world for human consumption every year yet more than 800 million people in the world do not have enough to eat. The reason is enormous amount of food is wasted. According to a study approximately 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year. Around 7 million tons of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year though most of it could have been eaten. Food waste in Europe alone could feed 200 million hungry people. Americans throw away up to 40% of food that is safe to eat. This amounts to $1 trillion of wasted or lost food.

poverty is indeed startling. The World Bank forecasted in 2015 that 702.1 million people were living in extreme poverty and hunger. About one in nine people on earth is chronically undernourished due to lack of proper food. Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. Sixty percent of the world’s hungry are women. Two thirds of the total hungry people are in Asia. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.

In most countries the definition of food waste is the uneaten food and food preparation wastes from residences and commercial establishments such as grocery stores, restaurants, and produce stands, i n s t i t u t i o n a l cafeterias and k i t c h e n s , a n d industrial sources like employee lunchrooms. Economic and environmental c o s t o f f o o d w a s t e i s a l s o high. “Food waste has a negative impact on the environment, on the economy, on food security and on nutrition,” affirms Ludovica P r i n c i p a t o , a Ph.D candidate in Management at the La Sapienza U n i v e r s i t y o f R o m e . F o o d waste generates 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which accelerates global climate change. “Besides, every time food is wasted, the water, energy, time, manpower, land, fertilizer, fuel, packaging and money spent into growing, preparing, storing, transporting, cooking the food is wasted” she adds. Landfill space taken up by food waste takes up 19 percent making it the single-largest class of landfill garbage. Although food naturally decomposes, this is small comfort considering the vast quantities of methane gas that this rotting throwaway food produces. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes considerably to climate change.

Household food waste is another major concern in the developed world. Consumers in high-income countries discard up to 30 percent of fruit and vegetable purchases. They also trim products up to 33 percent by weight during household preparation. High levels of waste result in higher prices for the final product, which could contribute to lower consumption of fruits and vegetables.

What can we do to avoid wasting food? The solution begins with the end consumer. There are effective ways to reduce or manage food waste, particular at the household level.

First and foremost eat what you buy and buy what you need. “Plan out your meals, and make a detailed shopping list with the ingredients you’ll need, and when you’re in the store really stick to that list. Keep your kitchen stocked with staple ingredients so you’ll always be able to make use of fresh foods. Leftovers are great, but only if you’re willing and able to eat them. Casseroles, stir-fries, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are great ways to use leftovers. Many chefs around the world are composing new dishes with leftovers from the kitchen every week. Not only that they are raising awareness about waste and looking at preparing differently. In fact, many ingredients can be brought back to life again with smart cooking and careful seasoning.

Avoid making too much food by adjusting recipes to match the number of servings you need. Learn to store foods properly to keep them fresh as long as possible. Freeze, preserve, or can surplus fruits and vegetables – especially abundant seasonal produce. Wait to wash berries until you want to eat them to prevent mold. Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other nearby produce spoil faster. Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves, and store fruits and vegetables in different bins. If your food is nearing the end of its edible existence, save it in your freezer – it’s the easiest preservation method, and works with most foods. Store in airtight containers with as much air removed as possible, and be sure to label before you freeze to avoid the guessing game when you thaw.

When cooking, don’t over-serve food. “Usually we serve more or rather overserve our family and friends to show that we have enough” says home maker Joanna. “A lot of food gets wasted that way. In Asian homes serving more than what you need is considered good hospitality and we don’t want to show ourselves inhospitable” she adds. Also, you can turn your food waste into compost. Coffee grounds and vegetable peelings can also be used in your compost, and eggshells are great for feeding worms, which in turn improves the quality of farm soil.

Last but not the least, donate food. Remember the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. By donating food one can help alleviate the hunger felt by millions. A lot of food is past its prime but still safe to eat. Depending on scale this could be as simple as dropping off surplus with a small shelter in your area, or contacting one of the larger companies.

Food waste management in Myanmar remains at a preliminary stage, attributed to challenges at both the national and city levels resulting from a range of technical, social, economic and institutional constraints. But still by adopting three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle, we can cut cost, cut hunger and create an eco-friendly atmosphere both at local and national level.