A Hungry Country Throwing Away Its Food


Image source: asiaone.com

In an earlier article, I told you how I learnt to value money after reading my father’s diary. Another habit which we children developed by observing our parents — both of them — was to respect food. We did not learn it by reading their diaries or eavesdropping on their conversations. As a family we used to eat together, and day and night we watched and observed how our parents never wasted a single grain of food. This is one of the reasons that I always stress that children learn by observing their parents and follow their example, whereas lecturing almost never helps.

Sometimes I have to take lunch in students’ mess, and I am appalled at the amount of food that is wasted there. In fact, in one mess, the secretary has put up a board where he writes in bold letters how much food was wasted and thrown away the previous day, in an attempt to shame the wasters and try to awaken their consciousness. In my own student days, on watching me eat, several fellow students and colleagues used to ridicule me for not wasting food. ‘You are eating everything because you paid for it, aren’t you?’ I never understood what does it have to do with money. See, eating was an activity that I had been doing three times a day for 26 long years, and in that period even the most absent minded people would know how much hungry they are. Come on, you can see the size of the roti, and the amount of rice, and of course, you should know yourself! Don’t argue that mess food was bad that is why you left food. Good or bad, mess/canteen food is always consistent. If it is good, it is good always; if bad, it is always bad. This is one talent of mess workers that they have the ability to cook the same food in the same way, day after day and year after year, achieving the same taste! When you took food in that mess for the first time, you may not have liked so must have left. May be second day also, and the third. But in one week you should have understood that these cooks are programmed and are following a computer algorithm to achieve ‘consistent consistency’!

There was a small window connecting the mess and the room where a man washed the dishes. Structure of the rooms (location of tap and basin in that room) was such that we seldom got to see the man at work. But once in a while when I put my plate there, the man would come to the window, look at me and smile; I would smile back and wish him. One day he himself revealed his thoughts — ‘Just by looking at the plate, I know that it is you. You never waste a single grain. Otherwise, you know, it is so painful to throw such large amount of food every day.’ I just thanked, smiled and remembered my parents.

Then come the over-eager hosts who insist their guest to take more and more food, and even more food, in order to demonstrate their hospitality. We are not cattle that could swallow and chew later. In my opinion, forcing food in this way much beyond the capacity and desire of the guest only demonstrates the rudeness and callousness of the host. The guest just has to praise any of the food items served, and the torture begins! This is one of the reasons that I try to keep away from parties and nearly always turn down dinner invitations, however rude that may sound. It is my health and I have to shield it from ‘hostile attacks’. If for some reason, I do have to attend any party, I keep alert and try my best not to praise any item for the same reason. If they insist on feedback, I just say ‘OK’. Cooking is considered an art, and as all artists, the cook also wants to get the feedback. However, respect for food comes first and foremost, and if they don’t respect the food and the guest, I am sorry to say, they haven’t learned their first lesson. They have read somewhere that the path to a man’s heart goes from his stomach and they are simply using the same formula to ‘win friends and influence people’. They miss the point that the exit out of people’s hearts also follows the same path only.


17 thoughts on “A Hungry Country Throwing Away Its Food

  1. Ritesh Kumar Mishra

    Healthy mind and attitude for a hunger less India. Is the least bit, we all can do for our farmers and for the ~ 22% of Indian population leaving below the poverty line, who, unfortunately, even after 70 years of Independence do not manage to have 3 meals a day.

    1. Amit Misra Post author

      Sure Ritesh. Also, food preparation is an elaborate process involving enormous effort at every step — from growing the crops to the final cooking. Throwing away food is a big insult to all those people who endure great pains to make sure the supply is not broken.

  2. Indrajit Roychoudhury

    This is sad. As per a CSR Journal, Indians waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes — a statistic that may not so much indicative of our love of surfeit, as it is of our population. Still, food wastage is an alarming issue in India. Our street and garbage bins, landfills have sufficient proof to prove it.
    It’s worth mentioning here that France is the first country to ban food waste by supermarkets.
    It’s a good post and we need to get it into people’s minds to talk about food waste, that’s when little changes will take effect. Change doesn’t have to involve a huge elaborate campaign.
    You may also read my earlier post on food wastage: http://bit.ly/2E4MXu7

    1. Amit Misra Post author

      Thank you Sir for your valuable comments. You have very nicely said that changes do not require campaigns. On the same line, one need not have law for everything. At least on this issue, change can be brought by individual effort only. I have been told that some institutions involve students in growing and cooking food in school canteens. This way they are taught to respect food early in their life.

      Thanks for sharing your post. I am reading it.

  3. Abhay

    Very important topic covered in very emphatic way!
    In latest Global Hunger Index, an annual report released by IFPRI, we are ranked at 100th position out of 119 countries, trailing behind even Bangladesh, North Korea and may African Countries!
    We are living in paradoxical world, where many of us is deprived of having a meal and at the same time huge amount of food is being wasted. I don’t know what should I term this behavior : careless, negligence, apathy, not knowing the importance or its just a habitual attributes.
    Whatever it may be termed as, but at least there is consensus is that it’s undesirable. Increasing awareness is the only way out!

    1. Amit Misra Post author

      Thanks Abhay for summarizing the issue in such wonderful way and adding further details. Your comment also makes me wonder what goes on in the mind of the person throwing away food. See, certain officials follow corrupt practices in an attempt to accumulate wealth. But these people are worse than them as they take far more than they require or need and then throw it away!

  4. Subhadip Mukherjee

    For my daughter’s birthday party we limited the food quantity that was prepared and leftovers were distributed instead of being thrown away. Many offices have also now started food distribution stations.

  5. matheikal

    Having worked in a residential school for many years, I know how much food is wasted in hostels everyday. If only people were more aware of this problem! India has enough food for all but it doesn’t reach the right places.

  6. Naveen Chauhan

    Rightly said Amit Bhai, I totally agree with you. There are people who are struggling to get even one meal of day, then Its really stupidity to waste food by so called well educated and well cultured people.


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