Saturday, May 03, 2008

There's a food crisis in the world ...

I'm usually pretty cut off from what's happening in the world around me coz I hate the newspapers here. And since I'm not much of a TV watcher, I don't even get my dose of news from TV. A very close friend actually works for a news company and has often tried getting me to be more 'aware' under the guise of reading at least items that she reports. All in vain, though.

Recently, friend A referred to a world food crisis and how troubled a good friend of his was by it all. Coincidentally, that weekend, as I flipped through channels on TV, I chanced upon a BBC series which covered this in far more detail.

As the repercussions of the crisis were highlighted and case studies of poor families showcased, I was shocked that I was so blissfully oblivious to something so major happening around me

For perspective on how bad things out there really are, here's some links
- The magnitude of increase in food prices
- The impact on rich vs. poor nations in the world
- An Asia specific perspective

You'd probably wonder why I'm writing about all this (cause obviously most of you out there, unlike me, are in touch with world news and know all about this). Esp given most of what I write about on this blog alludes to frivolous non events from my own life.

The thing is, this is the kind of thing you and I take rather lightly. We're the kinds who don't bother about a 5 % increase in the price of rice in the supermarket. We're blessed with pockets deep enough to absorb the impact, and hence minds that can afford to not pay attention.

Many many others, unknown to us, are in the unfortunate position wherein a 5% increase in the price of food items instantly pushes them below the poverty line .

As the fortunate 'haves' in this situation, there's many things we can do at an individual level to help. I figured if I could list even 2, and tag more bloggers to list an idea each, this could collectively acquire the form of a worthwhile contribution on our part to alleviating the impact of the crisis a majority of the world faces today.

So here's my 2 tips to help make a difference ...
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1. If you or the person who cooks in your home (household help, a parent, a relative, anyone) are prone to being a bad judge of proportions when you cook, and if you're the fussy kinds who won't eat leftovers, then please be careful with how much rice, lentil or pasta you cook starting NOW.

These are the most popularly misjudged food items cause they start out looking very little, and we realize we've gone awry with proportions only after they're cooked.

Don't be fussy about leftovers. When there's people out there who don't get one square meal a day, it's almost criminal to be whining about eating food that YOU had cooked 24 hours ago.

Being a tad careful in your day to day cooking and consumption will help save at least a cup of food per household on a daily basis. That's one extra mouth fed for every cup we refuse to waste. Even counting a paltry million people who do this on a regular basis means a million incremental mouths getting fed on a daily basis. That's almost a tiny country. Huge no?

2. The other situation where I've seen tons of food go to waste is social gatherings. Not only do hosts tend to overestimate the amount of food needed at such events, typically 20% of expected guests don't turn up and don't RSVP.

Every time artificial demand is created (purchase that is not consumed) as in the above case, at a collective nation wide level, it influences prices of goods. So each time we overestimate the food order at an event, the raw material for that food (rice, lentils, vegetables - the very basics) becomes unaffordable for a few more people.

It makes a huge huge difference if as a guest who plans to not attend, you could be considerate enough to inform your host that you're not turning up. That gives your host one less person to feed at that event, and artificially inflated demand is stemmed.

As a host, if your guest group comprises people you can expect understanding from (friends at a casual dinner, close family), try and order lesser than you feel tempted to. In all likelihood, what you order will suffice, and if not, you'll know by the middle of the meal anyway, in which case you can simply order a little more as a follow up. And no one will mind.
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The intent of this post isn't to be pedantic and tell you how noble I am. The intent is to make as many who are unaware of this, aware.

And to let you know that the little things done at an individual level can make a difference if there's enough of us doing it.

And this world, the blogosphere, is a superb network to start with. So start helping by passing around the links posted above to other people you think might be amenable to making small changes in their lifestyle to accommodate a growing population that is being pushed below the poverty line.

I'm also tagging some co bloggers to put down 1 thing they think we can do differently with our food consumption habits to help the food crisis in what little way we can.

So Chandni, MadMomma, Parul, and Nutty: I'll hope that you can take up this tag and pass it forward into the widespread network of bloggers around the world :)


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Edited to add:
The Penguin's tip here: (pasting from the comments section so you can read easily)
"My 2 bits - My favourite food-saving mechanism is to buy frozen vegetables and readymade pastes. I know loads of people disagree and say, the fresher the better. I do agree with them, but my problem is that since I'm by myself, my grocery stocking and cooking is quite erratic. Also, frozen veggies taste quite nice actually - They sort of ensure that I eat healthy food and also do not leave fresh veggies to die in my fridge :-)"

And Lucky's post on the same issue outlining how he plans to contribute.

8 comments:

the mad momma said...

fantastic. will be thrilled to do this tag. thanks.

Devaki said...

A very timely post. And no, it wasn't pedantic at all. In fact the first tip you've mentioned is precisely what I've been practicing for the past couple of months, ever since I became aware of the food crisis. Even my husband, who is usually VERY fussy about eating leftovers, agreed with me for a change!

Another idea w.r.t. parties, we usually distribute the leftovers amongst the guests after a party - most people (especially the bachelors) are only too happy to take them home. I don't know if it sounds cheap, but it's definitely better than being wasteful! And I like bringing home stuff too, since it means there's no need to cook at all the next day! :-)

Anonymous said...

I haven't been tagged, but my two cents and a little story --

When we were small, self and baby sister, the lyricist, went out a lot with the parents for meals. I remember the lyricist was still a kiddie with short stubby legs, at a restaurant one night she looked over at my plate -- i had left a good amount of food untouched. She said -- Mogambo, please don't waste food, there are children in Somalia who would be grateful to eat what you are wasting. A kid she was, telling me this. I was blown away. She said it to many people, many times and for a long time.
My point -- Teach your children these things. In the long term, it will serve you, and the world, well.

-M-

Penguin said...

My 2 bits - My favourite food-saving mechanism is to buy frozen vegetables and readymade pastes. I know loads of people disagree and say, the fresher the better. I do agree with them, but my problem is that since I'm by myself, my grocery stocking and cooking is quite erratic. Also, frozen veggies taste quite nice actually - They sort of ensure that I eat healthy food and also do not leave fresh veggies to die in my fridge :-)

unpredictable said...

MM: Thanks! It'll be the best way of spreading the word, your blog :)

Devaki: That's pretty cool! Changing this 'no to leftovers' habit isn't easy and its really something that your husband's agreeing to shrug it off :)

Mogambo: God, that girl amazes me. I doubt I was ever that sharp when I was young (or even now for that matter!). You and I have spoken about the whole "what do we pass on to our kids" in this context and in others. There's responsibility aplenty that rests on our shoulders no! :)

Penguin: Ah! I just put ur comment on the post. What better way to acknowledge it say? :)

Itchingtowrite said...

thanks for posting
did my take-

chandni said...

very nice thought...mine's up too!

unpredictable said...

Itchingto and Chandni: Thanks! Your taking it on means a lot given your readerships!