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Food Waste v/s a Country's Culture

How would you reduce food waste in a country that is known for its generosity and hospitality?

Photo of Armand Khoury

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I was born and raised in Lebanon, a country which citizens are known for their hospitality and generousness, especially when it comes to food. The dogma is "buy a lot and serve a lot, regardless whether it's going to be consumed or not". This is the case in restaurants (mostly the ones that serve Lebanese food) and within households. It's rooted in our culture and genes.

If your dining table is not full of food, you're badly perceived by the crowd as a stingy person/host. The same goes for when you're buying food, whether vegetables or fruits; if you buy per piece, or just enough, you're also perceived as someone poor or stingy.

I have recently moved to Paris, and it's totally the opposite in here. People buy vegetables by piece (1 cucumber, or 1 tomato!), and there are no abundance of food at all on dining tables whether within households or at restaurants, even in house parties.

I'm not sure if all developing countries are the same, but I can pinpoint 2 food-waste problems related to culture in Lebanon:

  1. Buying too much food
  2. Serving too much food

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Most Lebanese buy food without really thinking when and how it will be consumed, and serve food without really thinking when and by whom it will be all consumed.

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Photo of Congqian Cheng

Hi! Armand Khoury
I’m from China where has the similar culture background as your country. In China, we always order too much food when we ask guests to dinner in restaurant and think it is a kind of kindness and a way to show friendship with respect. Even worse, we seldom take away leftover food and think it’s unseemly. While recent years, we have realized waste is a serious question and started to take leftover food home, food waste still a big problem in China. I agree with you that it is due to culture and I think it need time to change these cultures. I have no idea but believe that we need more publicity about food saving. Looking forward to hear some good ideas from you!


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