Today is World Food Day. Man is the only special species on this planet, endowed with the art of cooking his food, with appropriate ingredients to satisfy individual taste buds. Much like an artist creating sensational masterpieces, man has mastered the art of embellishing the often-tasteless food into delicious, lip-smacking wonders.
Many countries of the world have found themselves in different stages of food inadequacy caused by poverty, bad governance, war, internal strife, floods, drought or other climatic influence. Famine and hunger on this day is stalking more than 3 million in Lake Chad region, as it is threatening many countries like South Sudan, Somalia etc.
India was on the verge of severe food shortages soon after it secured its independence from the British, which stretched well into mid 60s. I recall as a child, living at the mercy of ration shops, the only source for rice, wheat and sugar. The rice was coarse and reddish in colour and was a case of ‘take it or leave it.’ Selected bakeries were blessed with flour permits and bread was available once or twice in a week, as we used to queue up with prayers on lips.
Bringing in rice from any outside state was considered a crime and special anti-smuggling force was on the patrol on road and rail stations, keenly looking for rice-smugglers. The green revolution of Prof MS Swaminathan, pushed by food minister C. Subramaniam changed the scenario. However, India still features a low 100 out of 159 countries in the Global Hunger Index.
It was in the early eighties and I was a guest in a German family near Munich. They were born in Romania and have witnessed great poverty. The staple diet, for years was only boiled potatoes, garnished with garlic and pepper. I was severely admonished for wasting a portion of my food, but I was full and could eat more. ‘Never mind,’ my friend quipped as he slid plate, with half consumed food into the fridge. ‘You can eat it tomorrow,’ and I learnt a valuable lesson.
A third of the food produced in the world, or nearly 1.3 billion tons are wasted; $ 680 million worth in industrialized countries and $ 310 billion in developing countries. Even if a portion of the wastage could be saved, there can be no one hungry in this world. Lavish parties and weddings must change course and act responsibly.
Can we eat just a bite less and help the unprivileged?