Dr Banarsi Lal & Dr Pawan SharmaIndia is at first rank in milk production and second in fruits and vegetables after China in the world. But India is the world’s biggest waster of food and a high proportion of the food that India produces never reaches to the consumers. India is already struggling to feed its increasing population and if wastage of food is not prevented then its current food crisis can worsen significantly in the coming years. One-third of world’s malnourished children live in India. 35.7 per cent of children in India are underweight. Almost half of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition. Food is wasted from the point of production to the final consumption. The food wastage represents wastage of various resources used in production such as soil, water, seed, fertilizers, labour etc. Food wastage has various socio-economic and environmental impacts. Food is very scarce for the many poor people but luxury for many rich people. A good amount of wasted food can be fed to many hungry people. India ranked 94th among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index in 2020.Our neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and China are all ranked above to India.14 per cent of India’s population is undernourished. Child malnutrition is a chronic and longstanding problem in India. The bane of child and maternal malnutrition is responsible for 15 per cent of India’s total disease burden.37.4 per cent of Indian children are stunted and 21 Per cent are wasted. Stunted children are those who have a low height for their age, reflecting chronic under-nutrition. The crisis of child malnutrition in India has often been attributed to historical antecedents such as poverty, inequality and food shortage. India launched the Poshan Abhiyan, a flagship national nutrition mission to improve the nutrition among the children, pregnant women and lactating mothers in 2017. Poshan Abhiyan aims to reduce the malnutrition among the children by facilitating inter-departmental convergence, real-time monitoring, intensified health and nutrition services for the first 1,000 days. Children malnutrition in India is a complex problem that needs a systematic overhaul of the public administration and service delivery system. Some innovative interventions are needed to address this issue.Food wastage is not less than a social delinquency. Between 33-50 per cent of all food produced globally is never eaten and the value of this wasted food is worth over $ 1 trillion.1 person out of 9 on the planet are malnourished or starved. Each of them can be fed sufficiently if we can avoid the wastage of food. It is estimated that every year around 21 million tonnes of wheat is wasted in India and only 10 per cent of food is kept in cold storage in India. There is poor supply food chain management in cereals, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables etc. resulting in the huge amount of wastage. With the wastage of food various inputs and natural resources are also wasted. For example, 25 per cent of water is wasted even as millions of people still don’t have access to drinking water and 300 million barrels of oil is also wasted to produce the wasted food. Moreover, manpower and electricity are also wasted. Food wastage also causes land degradation by 45 per cent due to deforestation, unsustainable farming practices; excessive ground water extraction etc. Food wastage is the national economic loss. According to the sources, India loses around 58,000 crores due to food wastage annually. Food decay also causes emission of harmful gases. For instance, decaying of paddy causes methane production. Food wastage has a major impact on the climate change.Food wastage should be avoided in order to provide the food to the poor people. The initiatives like India Food Banking Network are assisting to provide the food to the poor people. There is a need to play the pivotal role in the prevention of food wastage in India. A proper strategy should be framed at the national level so that the surplus of food can become an advantage for the poor people. Hunger and food wastage are the two sides of the same coin. The cycle of food cannot be broken without channelizing the wastage of food. By preventing the wastage of food we can do justice with the hungry people, our economy and planet Earth. We need to plan out our meal and should purchase the food items which we actually need during the week. About 20 per cent food items purchased in the urban areas are thrown away. A list of family weekly consumption should be prepared. One should have the clear cut idea how much one buys and how much one consumes. The food at home should be cooked in such a way that there is no excess. To cook the extra food to keep in the refrigerator is not a healthy practice. Items should be purchased according to their shelf life. Vegetables should be cooked on priority basis because they are perishable in nature. Canned and bottled food should be consumed before the expiry dates. Spoiled food can be used for the compost making. Vigilance should be kept on canteens, hotels, NGOs etc. who deal with the food. If 40 per cent of food is left to rot then India will be unable to provide enough food to the increasing populationThe problem of food wastage has been a problem for decades and is worsening with time. It was only when the COVID-19 pandemic came along in 2020 that many of us taking note. The pandemic not only exposed the problems of food waste but also compounded them. Government-led mechanism is needed to eradicate this problem and a comprehensive strategy should be framed by involving the civil society and private sectors to overcome this grave problem. By managing this gigantic issue we can handle social, economic and environmental ill-effects. It is estimated that the Indians waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes. Food wastage is a burning issue in India. Indian streets, garbage bins, landfills etc. have sufficient proof to prove it. Weddings, households, social and family functions, canteens, hotels etc. spew out so much food. It has been observed that around 40 per cent of the food is wasted in India. About 21 million tonnes of wheat is wasted in India and 50 per cent of all food across the world meets the same fate and never reaches to the poor people. Food wastage is not an indication of hunger or pollution only but also has many economic problems in the country. Only government policies are not only responsible for the wastage of food but our culture and traditions are also playing a major role in this case. In India, the bigger the party, the more wastage of food is observed. Food wastage is a critical problem .The food which is being wasted annually can be processed, mean it can be available in raw form or in bottled form at a reasonable price.By the transportation, cold storage and food processing facilities food wastage can be avoided. Wastage of food at individual level should also be avoided.(The writers are Head, KVK Reasi and Scientist, KVK Kathua).
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