“CAN YOU GIVE ME FOOD?” – said the HUNGRY EYES!

I was travelling to my workplace on a regular Monday morning, being in Mumbai – everyone has to commute in one of the world’s busiest public transports – the LOCAL TRAINS! Everyday my arm would be pulled by one of the under privileged kids asking for money and food. I look at them in dejection and with a sense of sympathy, to look out for some eatables with me so that I could help these helpless kids to quell their hunger. The adolescent kids who have no meaning to their life, starting their day on one of the footpaths or the under-bridges and desperately begging for food and end at a place where they can close their eyes so that they wish to see a better tomorrow – I look at them in despair and try to be benign to provide them mental solace. I saw this girl yesterday, who looked to be in the mid 7 – 10 years, with her tender eyes searching for something which she hadn’t been experienced. She was constantly looking at a couple who had their newly born baby girl in their hands and she was desperately looking for the twinkling eyes the couple had for their child. She couldn’t blink her eye lashes for a whisker to give an expression of awe. Constantly sucking her thumb just to satiate the feeling of quenching her hunger and thirst, and giving those sharp poignant look to the couple – I wonder if she hadn’t experienced the love of the mother and the compassion she might have felt in her mother’s arms. I couldn’t look at her for another moment, so I drew my attention onto my phone and started fiddling on my mobile. There she was standing in front of me asking me for food. Looking at her innocent and frantic hungry eyes wanting for food, I gave her the chocolate which I had got for myself so that I could munch by. I wonder if we could help these children who are fighting for food – one of the basic necessities of survival. Imagine a country which is known for the agricultural production since 7 decades and what have we done to improve the growing needs of the population. Are we doing enough or is there any new notion to create a more sustainable growth of food to make up for the aggregating human population.

The current population of the world is 7.3 billion. Quite a large number isn’t it? 108 billion people have already lived on planet Earth. And if we stand side by side, next to each other, the Earth’s human population would fit on 1300 square kilometres – that would be twice of Mumbai’s area where the myriad world population can reside. Interesting isn’t it?  Now how do we fulfil the basic amenity of providing food to these masses? The food production should meet up the growing needs of the human population. Food is a vital part of our human growth. We can’t really rely on anything except for food to satiate our hunger.  The World Food Day is nearing, October 16th which is celebrated all over the world.

Let’s understand how much food is produced in the world, how much is consumed, wasted and lost in the whole process of food production to consumption. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, 4 billion tonnes of food is produced in a year that includes meat, vegetables, cereals, fruits and spices. Unfortunately, one third of it, 1.3 billion tonnes is lost or wasted. The cost of these losses amounts to a massive $680 billion. The food production has increased but not to a level where it can meet the growing needs of the population. We are wasting food of 222 million tonnes which is the food production of Sub – Saharan Africa. The per capita waste by consumers of rich and the powerful countries is around 100 kg annually whereas the developing countries waste about 10 kg of food.

Statistical analysis of the food wastage shows that we can feed 800 million of the food that is being wasted due to a number of reasons. Now the squandering investment in the food wastage includes manpower, machinery, capital and also production of noxious greenhouse gases contributing to global warming which we can experience with the mercurial hot climate even in winters and the extremely frigid weather.

Can we prevent the controllable food wastes from our end?  In life some things are controllable while some are uncontrollable, for e.g. a bad weather is uncontrollable but we can try our best to minimise the wastes during such undesirable conditions. According to the FAO,

  • 35% is lost in cereals, which is approximately equal to 763 billion boxes of pasta
  • 20% is lost in dairy products, which can equal 574 billion eggs
  • 35% on seafood and fish, which is almost equal to 3 billion Atlantic salmon
  • 45% on fruits and vegetables, 3.7 trillion apples
  • 20% on meat, which equals 75 million cows
  • 20% on oilseeds and pulses, which can fill 11,000 Olympic sized swimming pools
  • 45% on roots and tubers, which can equal 1 billion bags of potatoes

Kavita Shukla, CEO of Fenugreen FreshPaper who has come up with a great idea of increasing the life of the food by wrapping the food with an organic paper called as the “Fenugreen paper”. This paper is filled by organic materials which improves the life of the food and it keeps the food fresh 2- 4 times longer and now it is been used by most of the farmers in the US. Thanks a lot Kavita Shukla for drawing this innovative idea which you’ve described by relating it to your grandmother’s brown spicy tea, which she used to give you on drinking the tap water. Because of your persistent efforts you have created this Fenugreen FreshPaper. Ideas can come from the most unexpected experiences – so true!

One of the novel ideas of reducing the wastes are by understanding the major causes of food wastage at different levels of its cycle from production, processing to the consumption. Research should be carried at different levels to minimise the wastes in production by implementing better and effective techniques of food production. Once that has been eliminated, different transport techniques and storage methods should be introduced to ameliorate the life of the foods which perishes easily, not by adding chemicals but by finding organic alternatives. Finally consumption, which the smartest apes we “HUMAN BEINGS” take for granted because if we don’t like or if we wish not to have the food, we throw it away. Just keep in mind that there are countless that sleep without the basic necessity of food and about thousands of undernourished kids who are craving for a piece of bread. So please if you come across any one of the under privileged kids or someone who is yearning for food, help them by giving food and not by giving money – because you don’t know where the money is ending up, do you? I hope we don’t waste the food anymore and stay smart with our eating habits – we know ourselves better than anyone else. Try helping the ones who aren’t lucky enough to have the basic necessity of food and watch the smile or happiness on them – you’ll surely be on cloud nine. You can share your stories when you do that!

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