The rich waste food in ostentatious displays as the poor starve

City Environment Food Top Story

By Arshreet Singh

At least a third of quality food is wasted in thousands of weddings in Bengaluru which could otherwise be used to feed the  hungry. This is when India ranks 101 out of 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index.

A study by the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, says the city  wastes 943 tonnes of food annually at weddings alone. This is enough to feed 26 million people with a decent meal.

Nearly 943 tonnes of food is thrown away in weddings alone

“A wedding is the biggest event in a person’s life. People look forward to this day…. How can you expect them to not splurge?” said Manu Kumar, who runs Sri Annapoorneshwari Caterers in Bengaluru.

Various caterers The Observer contacted said a  simple plate of food costs Rs 350 for a function. This can  increase to thousands of rupees. The average food wasted at the end of a function  ranges between 15 percent to 30 percent.

Assuming a guest list of 1,000, and a per-plate cost of Rs 350, the cost of food wasted can range from Rs 52,500 to Rs 1.05 lakh per gathering.

Manu Kumar, asked about what is done with the leftover food, said: “We throw it away unless a representative from an old-age home comes to pick up the leftovers.”

Surekha Rai, a manager at the Tamarind Tree, a wedding venue, said: “The food wastage is around 30 percent. We normally toss it.” Asked why so much food is thrown, she shared: “Food is wasted because people are very much into starters. When the main course comes, people aren’t hungry anymore, so it goes to the bin.”

Organizations like Hasiru Dala, Manav Charities, Robin Hood Army and NoFoodWaste collect food and distribute it among orphanages and old-age homes, and among the poor.

“Dinner is hard to distribute,” said Amit Shanbagh of Bangalore Caterers. “We call organizations who distribute food only for afternoon events. Events at night end late and the food goes bad by the next day, so we toss it.” As big events usually happen at night, leftovers have to be thrown away.

R.B. Shivakumar has been working  to solve the food waste issue for over 25 years. He collects food from marriage functions and distributes it among the poor at railway and bus stations, and government hospitals.

Explaining why huge amounts of food are wasted at weddings, he said: “A person puts 1-2  kg of food on their plate in a wedding. They eat 500 grams and throw away the rest. An average person does not need to eat more than 250 grams of food in one sitting.”

He added: “People love to show off. They see a huge variety of food at other weddings, and try to outdo them. Some people have more than 30 dishes. Who eats 30 dishes in one meal? The amount of food wasted in India every weekend can feed everyone for five days. People who throw away food only account for 20 percent of the population. And the people who need to eat are the remaining 80 percent.”

In 2015, the Karnataka State Marriages (Registration and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2015, was introduced in the hope of imposing a tax on extravagant weddings. In 2018, a Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur expressed concern over the wastage of food and mis-utilization of water at weddings.

Manav of Manav Charities, an organization that  provides  nutritious meals to children , said: “The issue is that people invite 3,000 guests and only 1,500 come. What is needed is a law that mandates a freezer in every banquet hall which stores leftover food at night to be distributed the next day.”

In the absence of laws, NGOs distributing food to the deprived, catering staff over buffet and the option of packed food for guests will prove to be substantive.

arshreet.s@iijnm.org

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