21st October 2017, New Indian Express: ECOLOGIC- Pavitra Sriprakash, the Chief Designer and Director of Shilpa Architects writes about sustainable consumption of food to avoid wastage.
Think before you toss, save a meal or two
Each year, October 16 is celebrated as World Food Day. It’s the day UN started the Food & Agriculture Organization in 1945 to focus on issues of food security. While we are focused on the quality of food, it is humbling to think about the estimated 20 crore Indians that will go to sleep hungry tonight. With more than a fifth (21%) of its children wasted (low weight for height), India ranks 100 of 119 countries in the 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI), down three places from 97 last year.
Despite that, there is a lot of food that goes waste every day. Studies show that on an average, hotel kitchens waste about 25% of all food produced in their kitchens, amounting to about 350 grams of food per diner! How do we directly contribute to food waste and what can be done to reduce food waste in our homes?
Firstly, shop smart. Don’t buy too much food to try and save a trip to the store. Buying frequently based on a well thought through meal plan for the week is a great way to ensure buying the right amounts.
Most packaged food come marked with expiration dates. Treat them as guidelines and think hard before tossing out something. Mostly, expiration dates ensure quality and not safety by the date marked.
Once the food is bought it is important to store it correctly.
Some fruits and vegetables do better outside rather than in the fridge, while many sauces and condiments require to be refrigerated once opened. Avoid clutter in the fridge, store rooms, pantries and freezer. Usually it is easy to forget that something is there until it is no longer good to consume. A simple yet effective tip is to move older products to the front once you buy new groceries so that they are consumed first.
Canning and pickling food is a wonderful way to extend the life of fruits and vegetables and can increase their shelf life for months.Now comes the cooking of food and preserving leftovers. The idea of massive portions is largely driven by the restaurant culture which is now finding its way into homes. So the expectation is to have a spread at the dining table. Don’t over-serve friends and family. Small plates and simple menus help with this. If you have leftovers, plan to use them!
When it comes to discarding scraps, compost them to turn it into fertiliser. The focus on reducing food waste is key – the food recovery hierarchy says reduce, donate, feed strays and livestock and only then compost.
Then there is technology. There are some apps that help avoid food waste. My personal favourite is Handpick which helps plan meals around stock and ingredients at hand to plan even by the end of the week to square off the last bit of groceries. To eat sustainably, take stock of the squirrelled away stuff in your refrigerators, think before you toss, reduce food waste and reduce hung.
About the author
Pavitra Sriprakash (@pavisriprakash), the Director and Chief Designer of Shilpa Architects, is an Architect, Urban Designer, Dancer and Artist She writes a weekly sustainability column for The New Indian Express titled ECOLOGIC.