In a concerning revelation, data from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) underscores a growing crisis of food wastage in eateries across the city. The statistics indicate that, on average, 1.25 lakh kilograms of excess food are disposed of every day by these establishments, an amount that could easily provide two square meals to over 1 lakh adults daily. The surge in food waste poses not only a threat to civic cleanliness but also exacerbates issues of hunger and malnutrition.
The mounting collection of food waste is primarily attributed to the rapid pace of urbanization experienced in 2022. The daily gathering of more than 1.1 lakh kilograms of food waste from restaurants reflects the magnitude of the issue. Notably, larger restaurants with processing units account for a significant portion of this waste, producing over 100 tonnes per day, inclusive of leftovers. However, the current waste collection efforts only focus on standalone eateries, omitting hawkers and roadside stalls from the purview.
The gravity of the situation is further emphasized by India’s child wasting rate of 18.7% in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2023. This statistic underscores the critical need to address the problem of wasted food, given that child wasting refers to the condition where a child is undernourished and too thin for their height, indicating recent rapid weight loss or an inability to gain weight.
Taking steps to combat this crisis, the Robin Hood Army in Pune, alongside other non-governmental organizations, has been actively involved in reducing food waste. Their strategy involves the collection of leftover food from canteens, hostels, and donations from restaurants, which is then distributed among underprivileged individuals.
Despite efforts to minimize food waste, some restaurant owners cite internal policies that restrict the distribution of leftover food, even to their staff, to prevent potential food poisoning incidents. This concern highlights the delicate balance between reducing waste and ensuring food safety. Some eateries strive to prepare food according to specific customer requests to minimize leftovers.
The growing food waste documented by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is indicative of negligence from both individuals and restaurants. As the crisis deepens, it calls for a collaborative effort from communities, authorities, and businesses to address the root causes and implement sustainable solutions to curb the wastage of precious resources.