Food security amidst food wastage

Elucidating food security seems to have been a herculean task. It is said that over two hundred definitions of food security have been brought forth over the last two decades. Among all such definitions, the one that I believe blankets most of the issues concerned was adopted in the 1996 World Food Summit which was fine-tuned in The State of Food Insecurity 5 years later in 2001, that says; “Food security [is] a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

On the other hand, food insecurity as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is a situation wherein “people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life”. Many factors, say, inaccessibility of food, lack of entree to it, unseemly utilisation and instability add to the increment in food insecurity.

In 2017 alone, almost 124 million people across 51 countries confronted extreme food scarcity and insecurity skyrocketing from 108 million across 48 countries in 2016. This rise has been imputed majorly to fresh-cut or intensified conflicts in countries like Myanmar, north-east Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Yemen.

Assessed by the FAO of the United Nations State of Food Insecurity for 2010, nearly 1 billion people round the world don’t have access to enough food to eat and live a healthy life. 16pc of them belong to developing countries. Out of nine people going to bed every night, one does so empty-bellied. 43 million people struggle to find enough food to feed on in places like Guatemala and Haiti situated in Latin America and the Caribbean respectively. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people facing hunger springs to a soaring figure of 243 million.

Over 20 million people in South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria are on the brink of famine. Close to 10,000 people lose access to food every day in South Sudan alone – what to speak of the entire world.

The dominancy of men reportedly exacerbates issues of such sort. It has been observed that male-dominated societies limit women’s access to jobs and education thereby aggravating the vulnerability to poverty and hunger in the latter. Women and girls constitute close to 60pc of the world’s hungry.

This, resultantly, hugely impacts women’s lives and the health of the children bore by them in poverty-stricken societies. The ineradicable physical and mental stunting kids are born with are chiefly because of mothers’ malnourishment during their pregnancies.

Under such circumstances, one would be forced to think that there isn’t enough food available to sustain the entire population – 7.5 billion – of the world, and to help do so, new measures need to be the “go-to”. Fortunately, or the opposite of it, this isn’t the case.

Nearly one-third of all the food produced in this world goes wasted. Owing to incapable and undermanned production systems in developing countries, a lion’s share of the food is never consumed.

Hunger ensues not only in malnutrition and deaths, but also in further trapping the poor into poverty. Hungry become prone to illnesses and weaknesses of all sorts due to lack of enough nutrition resulting in the inadequate production of resources that elevates rather drastically the poverty rate.

This is aggravated further by the lack of education and better job opportunities that circumscribes generations to a life of poverty and hunger.

A great deal needs to be done. We ought to ensure that the food we order whilst we eat in restaurants is enough to feed us without being unexpended. To be part of the solution, we shouldn’t eat until satiated. Let’s all espouse by the saying of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) when he said; “Eat when you have an appetite for eating and stop eating while you [still] have an appetite for it”. (Nuri Al-Tabarsi, Mustadrik Al- Wasail wa Mustanbit Al-Masail, vol. 16, p. 221, no. 17)

Pakistan stands at 107 on the Global Hunger Index covering 119 countries, succeeding only to trounce Afghanistan in the South Asian region.

A report advanced back in 2008-09 says that per capita daily accessibility of a Pakistani citizen to food is mere 977.22 grams. Almost half (48.6pc) of the population of Pakistan doesn’t have access to nutritious food. Notwithstanding this sorrowful fact, Pakistan wastes 40 pc of all the food wasted globally. Its contribution is 36 million tonnes per year. 6 out of 10 people in Pakistan slumber hungrily. One can’t see a lot being done in order for this figure to be brought down.

To help eradicate this grave issue and to make food security leap, eating venues should train the front-most of their house staff to be better able to talk about portion sizes with consumers. For it not to be regarded insult by the customers, circumspection and skill need to be imparted in the former before they communicate relevant information to the latter. Also, restaurants need to display on their menus the right quantity of food adequate for serving the number of people availing their services.

Customers also need to step to the fore and feel free to ask about the portion sizes regardless of whether or not the staff encourages it. This needs to be made more of a norm.

Food authorities need to rid the “best before” labels from comestible products so as to stop people from only buying perfectly edible food. Doing so will ensue in a bulk of the food that is laid to waste to be consumed.

Finally, the amount of food wasted should be consumed through regulated and efficient ways. In lieu of letting people fall prey to hunger-related diseases, the tonnes of food that is left over and squandered should be forked over to them. Living on food waste should be propagated and encouraged.


The writer is doing his Master’s degree at the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar, and working as a Research Officer at Emerging Policymakers’ Institute (EPI) – an Islamabad based youth-led think tank.


Uzair Salman

Uzair Salman

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