Food habit: Waste not, want not

Dhaka,  Sat,  23 September 2017
Published : 14 Jul 2017, 19:48:15

Food habit: Waste not, want not

Fahmida Hashem
Food and food waste have been a global problem over the past few years. With accelerated economic growth and increasing production, food waste will be a matter of grave concern also in Bangladesh sooner or later. Bangladesh, being the ninth most populous and twelfth most densely-populated country in the world will surely bear consequences of both food scarcity as well as food loss, if the food wastage problem is not addressed. Approximately one billion people around the world are 'going hungry' and further two billion people will be affected by inadequate food supply by 2050 as a result of worsening climate and poor food production.

Bangladesh is a model of food waste reduction. For most middle class or lower middle class families, throwing food into the dustbin is unthinkable. Surplus food is either divided among extended family or given to poor people nearby. It seems too easy to say that it is the responsibility of consumers to reduce these ridiculous levels of waste. So the question is now: isn't it the food providers' responsibility to reduce food waste? Well, the answer is that both providers and consumers have a part to play.

Even though more than a quarter of the Bangladeshi population is malnourished, a lot of food is still wasted due to a lack of preservation and processing techniques in the country. Self-sufficiency is one of the most sustainable methods of mitigating food insecurity in these vulnerable communities. We need some project focuses on improving the preservation of locally-grown foods so the population can benefit from their nutritional and medicinal virtues throughout the year. Much fresh produce is currently wasted in Bangladesh because basic processing and preservation techniques are not readily available. Local farmers are keen to diversify their cultures.

Of course, there are also big structural issues at play. Here are a few tips to get started with how to reduce the food waste footprint of your own household: Shop smart, organise the refrigerator, play the no food waste game, plan your plantings, preserve and share the harvest, buy exactly what you need, be realistic, monitor what you throw away,  eat leftovers, repurpose leftover scraps, donate what you use, mind the expiry dates.  

The issue of food loss is related not only to consumer behaviour, but also to inappropriate infrastructure and storage facility, poor engineering and agriculture practices. The FAO's global initiative on food losses and waste reduction suggested strengthening the supply chain through the direct support of farmers and investments in infrastructure and transportation. They also suggested an expansion of the food and packaging industry to help reduce the amount of food loss and waste. Lack of technology at the harvest and processing level is causing higher production loss in the developing nations like Bangladesh, where investment for that technology is not easy.

Bangladesh went two steps up in the ranking from 70th position to 68th in 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI). Global Hunger Index is a report jointly prepared and published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe. Although it is good news especially in terms of eradicating hunger and reducing poverty, there have been recent developments in Bangladesh to improve waste management, especially in urban cities. In Dhaka, the Dhaka City Corporations with support from the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA) have a master plan underway to better handle the solid waste management in Dhaka. For instance, UNICEF has also initiated recycling programmes and waste control with the city corporations and municipalities.  

However, in Bangladesh people are much more attuned to these issues, as around 30 per cent of the population live below the poverty line, pushing them to save food for another day. In the capital, it is not uncommon to see rickshaw pullers enjoy rich and reclaimed food like pulao and biriyani, bought from roadside food stalls, at the unbelievable price of Tk 30. Vendors can afford to sell plates at this cost because they bought the food as leftover items from weddings or large public functions. These food sellers usually sell their food at the city's Dhanmondi, Shahbag, Kamalapur, Karwan Bazar and Eskaton, where many community centres and big hotels are located. The rate of food waste is very low in developing nations like Bangladesh, as most people in these countries must allocate around 70 per cent of their income on food, according to BIDS.

By swapping our wasteful habits for a more sustainable approach to buying, preparing and managing our food, we can all play a part in bringing about significant environmental and greenhouse benefits. We can all reduce the environmental impact by changing our actions towards food production and food waste, when we grow and buy local produce and support sustainable farming. We have to change our habit to address our lacking.

The writer is Consulting Nutritionist at Miss Nutritionist, a centre for nutrition and weight management.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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