While nearly 195 million people in India go to bed hungry every day, an estimated 40% of all food produced goes to waste each year. From the farm (at the production level) to homes (at the consumer level), multiple gaps cause thousands of tonnes of food to go to waste.
In developing countries such as India, food waste occurs primarily at the production level, as grains and produce are lost due to inefficient food systems due to limitations in technical and managerial services. However, with a rising urban population, India also faces food waste at the consumer level where overconsumption and excess purchase happen leading to waste.
With 40% of the food produced going to waste every year before it even reaches the markets to the consumers, and an additional Visit W3Schools.com! 50kg per person being thrown away on an individual level, that’s tonnes of food that could be feeding the millions of people in our country who are undernourished.
Food waste isn’t just about completely edible food being discarded; it affects multiple levels differently. When food goes to waste, immediately, it affects individuals who could have benefited from its consumption – this food goes to waste for reasons which could be entirely avoidable like having more reliable systems in place or even not adhering to “cosmetic” standards of food in grocery stores.
But this food waste also aggravates food insecurity among people – it reduces income for producers, increases cost for consumers, and overall, reduces access to food, especially for more vulnerable communities. It also creates a burden on the environment as the production, distribution, and decomposition of food waste produces methane gas, which is a strong contributor to greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Food loss explicitly shows a big gap in our food systems – when food goes to waste, everything that went into producing it, from labour to water to human capital, also goes to waste.
Correcting our food consumption can have multiple economic gains, environmental benefits, and community strengthening. Food redistribution can help support individuals most in need of food support. Reducing the over purchase of food, only taking portions that one can finish, and not discarding food that is fit for consumption can also alleviate food waste while also helping an individual save money on food.
Putting in the resources, economic or research-based, to strengthen the fragmented food systems can also be a pathway to reducing food waste. Improving the production, distribution, storage, and labelling of products can reduce the burden of food waste on the nation.
Reducing our food waste can have multiple benefits, just as the existence of it has multiple disadvantages. Reducing food waste is cost-saving as an individual only purchases as much is required; it reduces the strain it puts on the environment as lesser energy is consumed for production and decomposition; better production practices benefit food producers, sellers, and consumers; and, most importantly, it helps feed a person who would otherwise perhaps have to sleep another night on an empty stomach.