Food waste

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By Erma M. Cuizon

Sun.Star Essay

Saturday, January 4, 2014

HOW did you fare with food in the Christmas holiday?

Holiday or not, I’m a bad consumer of food. I get attracted to food whose cooking promises scrumptious meals but I can’t eat a lot at a time. I would choose three or four good-looking menu items—instead of just one or two—(and much of each!) because my hunger seems unrelieved until I start eating and find out only one dish is delicious. I finish eating, hardly touching the rest of the fare, hardly finishing the half-a-cup of rice.

Or if three of the cooked food are truly delicious, I reach the condition of being too full, I can only eat two dishes which I’ve ordered.


A friend, Tetta, calls this “takaw sa mata.”

I feel guilty, I make sure that I don’t make a mess of what I eat so that others might want to try what’s left, which is usually more than left-over. My friends also make me feel guilty as they try to eat after me to finish off the worth of the meal instead of send it to the trash bin. They take away some of the guilt I feel over the food waste problem.

I’m a problem of the country. I realized this when I saw in a television program the camera trailing a young man getting inside a restaurant, choosing his fare and ordering his lunch. Later, the camera took note of what was left uneaten in the man’s plates and trailed the food being thrown into the dumpster where slum boys wait at the back of the resto to get their hands on the packs of food waste, if they’re packed at all or made to rot.

“We also cook again some,” said an older man, also a “dumpster diver,” adding that in this way, it would be safer for them to eat the waste.

Then the piece of information on TV camera said that a great amount of these wasted food goes to the landfill, adding more problems to the matter of what to do with the rot of meal (and more things) in our life. And these food wasted could feed much of those who cannot eat a decent meal a day.

The problem of “Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill” concerns farmers, the food industry, retailers and consumers the world over. But let’s consider ourselves as individuals, and once we move, we are effective in the effort to save on food, no matter how small our share of the action is.

We have to do something about it even if, in developing countries, the problem is merely in production. In developed countries, the trouble is in the consumption stage, a phase which is more difficult to deal with.

Food waste in the world in terms of weight in 2009 was 32 percent. What’s worse is this year, when half of all food in the world was wasted instead of given to the hungry.

What I recently found out is that gleaning can do a lot to solve part of the food waste problem, says some people organizations in the U.S. which help meet the need of the poor. With food wastes as one of its biggest problems, the help groups are trying to find ways to reduce food production but feed all.

Take gleaning, for one. It was during the evacuation to the mountains in Compostela during World War II that I learned about farm gleaning when young boys in the hills would trail the harvesters to pick up and gather the unharvested food left behind by the farmers in their act of reaping the farm’s produce.

Even in rich countries, unharvested food is found, left behind by those gathering the produce. And so the US government recognizes this by giving tax deduction to farms willing to donate the unharvested food which in turn are given out to feed the poor. But the gleaning must be fast so that the food will not rot and will still be safe to eat.

Food waste is global. Some 40 percent of food in the US are wasted rotting in landfills, producing methane emissions.

A university research in China shows that in the school, 1/3 of food served in its dining halls is left un-eaten, ending up in the landfill. China is going into eating more and ordering less, together with an austerity campaign so that the Chinese could save on food.

UK families lose £50 a month on food wasted.

But let’s not go far in finding out where the Philippines stand on food waste. Of rice alone, we rot and put down the drain P14 million worth of rice a day, according to a paper of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 05, 2014.


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