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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Jun 5, 2013

Food for thought World Environment Day: Don?t dump extra food, donate it

In
a country where the sight of unfinished, discarded food on white plates is a
common sight at weddings, an organisation based in the twin cities has been
trying to create awareness on avoiding food wastage while feeding the
undernourished and underprivileged communities.

Thali,
a "non-denominational food rescue charity," is working with the mission
of "feeding the less fortunate through meals the more fortunate take for
granted".
The idea is to prevent the waste of food and to help the needy by
sharing fresh
meals or leftovers, Thali Chief Executive Officer Zoone Hasan said.

Hasan
said Thali collects good quality, excess fresh food that would otherwise be
thrown away by corporate offices, restaurants, caterers and wedding halls and
distributes it to impoverished households in a respectable way, often after
repacking the food in "meal packs".

Since
registering as a formal organisation in 2009, Thali has completed eight
projects related to redistributing food and served around 100,000 beneficiaries
in the twin cities, Hasan said.

Thali’s
work links directly with the theme of World Environment Day 2013, which
falls
on June 5. For 2013, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has
chosen "Think. Eat. Save" as the focus of the international day to
encourage people to
avoid food wastage and food loss.

The
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that around
1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year, but at the same time, one in
every seven people in the world go to bed hungry every day. According to UNEP,
food waste is a drain on natural resources because when food is wasted, the
resources that went into its production are also effectively lost.

Pakistan
is also grappling with challenges of food insecurity and malnutrition.

According
to the official National Nutrition Survey conducted in 2011, almost 58 per cent
of households nationwide were food insecure, while 31.5 per cent of children
under five were underweight. Pakistan had around 35 million undernourished
people between 2010 and 2012, according to the FAO’s “The State of Food
Insecurity in the World 2012" report.

Despite
being one of the top producers of wheat and rice, people in Pakistan often face
challenges in access to food, said Abid Suleri, the executive director of the
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

According
to a 2012 study on food security in Pakistan by Abid Hussain and Jayant Kumar
Routray, published in the International Journal of Development Issues, 35 per
cent of available food in Pakistan is inaccessible due to various factors and
the country’s food gap — the difference between the need for food and ability
of the people to receive it — stands at 30 per cent.

Suleri,
who also heads SDPI’s food security projects, said affluent Pakistanis should
consider that just being able to afford luxuries does not mean they usurp all
resources.

""People
should realise that the food they are wasting can be used to feed others," he
said. "There should be equitable distribution of food resources."

Suleri
suggested "sustainable consumption" and a balanced diet that includes all food
groups at the individual level to prevent food wastage.

Sustainable
consumption is a broad term that encompasses resource efficiency, use of
renewable energy resources, waste reduction and environmental impact
considerations.

In
the absence of significant support from big hotels and restaurants, individual
action to avoid food wastage has been the main focus of Thali, as well.

Its
Urdu slogan of "khaali karo ya thali karo" is a call to action.

“Either
eat all the food on your plate, or get the leftovers packed and give it to the
first needy person you see,” Hasan said, explaining the slogan.

Among
Thali’s other projects, a "Feed a Family" programme helped families displaced
by conflict in Pakistan’s northwest and a “Be My Guest” initiative distributed
unused food from local restaurants to low-income neighbourhoods. Ramadan drives
to distribute meals to the underprivileged, conducted over the past two years,
will also be repeated this July, Hasan said.

She
said Thali has expanded to Lahore this year and the organisation has also
planned campaigns on nutrition and school programmes for the twin cities in
2013.

According
to the World Food Programme, hunger kills more people every year than AIDS,
tuberculosis and malaria combined, and Hasan thinks that should be food for thought
for the wasters.

"Are
we still going to waste food rather than going through the embarrassment of
getting our leftovers packed? Please say no to wastage of food," she appealed.