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Optimal utilization of food

Developing a thorough understanding about food to combat wastage, pollution and health disorders related to shift in lifestyle choices.

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Vincent Van Gogh had famously said, “If one is the master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time insight into and understanding of many things.” Similarly having an in-depth knowledge about food is very important to reduce the problems that are usually associated with it.

My research is divided in parts, stating the two approaches that one can possibly take to minimize wastage:

  • Encouraging and subsidizing perishables which doesn’t meet the acceptable standards of the consumers. (Encourage a market for ugly fruits & vegetables)
  • Creating awareness about the food we consume, stating the nutrient values and create a balanced diet.


Introduction

Having grown up in a family where wasting food was always strictly dealt with, made me conscious and ensured negligible wastage.

Practical understanding and realization

My understanding developed further, when I moved out of my parent’s house and started living on my own. This lead to increased market visits and I also had to cook for myself and the realization of widespread food wastage dawned on me.

Encouraging and subsidizing perishables which doesn’t meet the acceptable standards of the consumers

Over a third of the food cultivated in the world goes to waste, because of poor storage facilities in developing countries and the particular demands of the consumers. An orange that is not perfectly round doesn’t get picked up and stays at the back of the shelf and rots there. This is the scenario with most fruits and vegetables. A perfectly shaped orange would smell, taste and have the same nutrient values as a deformed one.

Courtesy: The National Geographic


Possible ways to tackle this problem:

  • Creating a market for deformed perishables would lead to less wastage. Supermarkets should be encouraged to have a section for deformed perishables and the prices could be subsidized. Governments should support more of farmers markets and an awareness has to be created among the masses about how the look of the vegetables doesn’t make them taste better or make them more nutritious.
  • Restaurants, cafés and food court responsible for bulk orders of various perishables should be encouraged to use more of these deformed food.
  • Fast food joints selling burgers, fries etc. which take a massive toll on health of the masses should be made to contribute to the society by sticking to deformed perishables.
  • Kids at a very young age should be sensitized that a look of a fruit/vegetable has got nothing to do with the taste/nutrient value of the it. More often than not, organically grown perishables have a chance of taking weird shapes and having spots on them, are the healthier options rather than spotless, perfectly shaped fruits/vegetables which are carbide ripened.
  • Community kitchen or events catering food to a large gathering should be encouraged to use deformed perishables too, as this would lead to bulk orders and help us meet ever increasing demands.


Creating awareness about the food we consume, stating the nutrient values and create a balanced diet.

While growing up, seeing my grandmother and the elders cook always fascinated me. They were champions in terms of sustainable living and masters in creating a balanced diet consisting of almost each and every part of a fruit or a vegetable imaginable, and at the same time make the food taste great. (e.g: These days when we buy a cauliflower, we usually eat the head and the rest of the part gets discarded. However back in the days when my grandmother used to cook, she ensured negligible wastage. The stalks used to be made into a dish, the leaves used to be treated like kale, used in soups) This ensured we get maximum amount of nutrients from a single unit of vegetable/fruit, in the contrary, a lack of knowledge about the health benefits/cooking techniques of the parts that usually gets thrown away, make us depend on other sources without optimal utilization. Leading to wastage and also brings down the utility value of the individual natural products.

Beyond wastage, a strong knowledge about nutrients and cooking skills lead to creation of nutritious balance diets and good health. Thus creating an awareness about this would lead to feeding of more people with the same overall quantity cultivated.

Possible ways to tackle this problem:

  • Kids at a very young age should be taught about food, which would ensure good health. Starting with identifying of fruits and vegetables, to the benefits they possess. This would ensure not just less wastage but it would also create an awareness about achieving a balanced diet. Which in turn could help us in cutting down global obesity problems and other health hazards that are linked to poor eating habits.
  • Perishable garbage disposal should be charged as per quantity to minimize wastage. This would make people to think about cutting down wastage, ensuring them to push people to innovate more with food -cook the parts of vegetables we usually throwaway into a nutritious balanced diet.
  • People should be encouraged to cook and should be educated in various methods of storage in the form of canning, etc.
  • Also organizations should get people to eat together to reduce wastage, as shared lunches lead to less wastage. Sharing also leads to a balanced diet and also exchange of ideas would lead to more awareness about optimal utilization of food.

Apart from the above on a day to day basis we should be aware while eating.

At home, we should switch to smaller dishes to prevent wastage, the standard plate size has increased by over 36% in the last 50 years. Leftovers shouldn’t be thrown away, should be frozen or bruised fruits could be blended into smoothies.

While going out to eat, we should ensure we take home, leftovers. Keeping a check on the portions, sharing side dishes also leads to less wastage. Judging our appetite is also very crucial before ordering to prevent wastage and also restaurants should be motivated to donate excess food.

We should encourage shopping at stores that offer imperfect foods for a discount. Buy frozen foods, which suffer fewer losses from farm to shelf. Shop often. Start with a large trip and then make smaller follow-ups to buy a few days’ worth of produce at a time. Buy fresh food at local farmers’ markets.

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

1. Market for deformed perishables. ​2. Better global health and create food security 3. Cut-down on green house has emission, reduce water wastage and maintain soil health. 4. Rediscover side-lined, lost cooking techniques to create diversity in terms of food choices. 5. Reduce individual carbon footprints. 6. Community based learning

Tell us about your work experience:

Professionally I'm the head of design at M&C Saatchi, Delhi. (An advertising & digital firm) Also interested in gardening, studying food habits/cooking, art, fashion & travel.

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Photo of Mitul Sarkar

Regarding "At home, we should switch to smaller dishes to prevent wastage, the standard plate size has increased by over 36% in the last 50 years " what do you think of my submission Hack The Plate? Thanks.
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-waste/ideas/hack-the-plate