Plate Pileup: The modern dilemma of wasting food while others go to bed hungry

By Jane Babirye
On 14 October 2023 at 11:08

When I approached my editor with the idea of writing about ‘people who serve themselves a lot of food at ceremonies yet never finish it’, he questioned why I was peeping into others’ plates instead of “minding my own business”.

It’s not that I intend to intrude, but some things are simply unavoidable. How can you tell your eyes not to wander?

Until I figure that out, let me share my thoughts on this matter.Serving oneself as much food as desired is perfectly fine, but not finishing it is a problem we can no longer ignore.

Traditionally, dining etiquette told us never to "clean our plates”, as leaving some food was considered polite. However, times have changed, and the consequences of wasting food are significant.

A report by the World Resources Institute reveals that "one third of food produced globally is lost or wasted, resulting in economic losses of an estimated $1 trillion a year and roughly 37% per capita in sub-Saharan Africa."

Alarming statistics continue to emerge. A statement by Oxfam on September 20, 2023, indicated that one person dies of hunger every four seconds. These facts cannot be ignored.

Oxfam is a global movement of people, working together to end the injustice of poverty.

Wasted food has a severe environmental impact too. If wasted food were a country, it would be the third-largest producer of carbon dioxide globally, following the United States and China. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 22% of landfill waste is food, which, during decomposition, releases methane—a potent greenhouse gas even more harmful than carbon dioxide.

September 29th is recognized as the "International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste." This day reminds us of the critical role sustainable food production plays in promoting food security, nutrition, and environment sustainability.

So, the next time you serve yourself food, remember to "bite what you can chew." Avoid loading your plate with more than you can finish. By doing so, you not only avoid wasting precious resources involved in preparing that food but also show consideration for those who are less fortunate.

Your choices regarding food wastage reflect your character. Wasting food implies a lack of empathy, greed, selfishness, and carelessness. Let’s make a conscious effort to change our habits and contribute to a world where food is cherished, not squandered. Together, we can make a difference and work towards a future where no one goes to bed hungry.

Wasted food has a severe environmental impact too.