The wastage that goes unnoticed

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 14 Aug 2017, 16:46:48
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Probing eyes

The wastage that goes unnoticed

Mahmudur Rahman
A little known group's appeal on social media was a right royal finger in the eye for the government, specifically the Ministry of Social Welfare. The group simply asked that those planning weddings, Iftar Mahfils and the like inform them of additional food that remains untouched. These would then be collected and distributed among the homeless and hungry that sleep in the night streets. Years ago, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia used to send the slaughtered remains after Eid ul-Azha for a similar purpose.

Albeit that government capacity and efficiency is always under suspicion, a public private partnership that isn't for profit could go a very long way in addressing what we all know but ignore, a major social unfairness. There are smaller initiatives in vogue whereby street hotels and restaurants do give away the day's unused cooked good to the don't-haves. That's just the tip of the iceberg. If non-government organisations (NGOs) and the community could tie up properly the major hotel chains and bring to the party the bakeries and confectioners it could result in a revolution of sorts.

The food-bank in the United Kingdom has worked well. Last year one million meals were distributed among hungry people, four hundred thousand of which were children. It would be tempting to suggest that as a pilot project, the Ward Commissioners could hold Town Hall meetings through which such initiatives could be channelled. This would also prevent in a large way stale food from being served the following day to consumers. Packed lunches and snacks served at government or development partners' seminars go to such horrendous waste that it turns the stomach. The sight of educated officials lugging home multiple packets suggests that which is not; that they have starving people at home. Milan Mahfil attendees often return with more than one packet begging a similar question.

The food bank concept is about requesting those who can afford it to buy something extra and deposit it with the store concerned. They would then, through voluntary organisations transport these to central storage areas from where targeted distribution takes place. Accepting that we lack discipline, the freedom to allow individuals to choose what they needed would be misused is where the community and NGOs come in.

Bakery or confectionery items usually have expiry dates on them; these are often offered in the now famous buy-one-get-one free deals. If ten per cent of such is reserved for the food-bank, the difference would be very clear and could be used in school-meals for the less affluent. It doesn't make sense that companies are offering discounted meals for employees without thinking of what happens to the left-overs. Even half-consumed food, a disgusting spillover for our inability to apportion food for ourselves would be a heaven-sent for the little children who scavenge the dustbins for something useful. And yes, they do exist.

There's been talk of setting up banks for the street-urchins, better named by former President Ershad as Pothokolis. It's an initiative that's innovative. But given the way we have seen banks behave when it comes to managing funds, one gets the feeling the Pothokolis would be assets in the system of food banks. After all, they know what 'want' is.

 (e-mail: mahmudrahman@gmail.com)

 
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