Stop Wasting Food Start Feeding Hungry

Taming the Global problem of food wastage, One step at a time

According to the United Nations Development Programme, up to 40% of the food produced in India is wasted. About 21 million tonnes of wheat are wasted in India and 50% of all food across the world meets the same fate. According to the agriculture ministry, Rs. 50,000 crore worth of food produced is wasted every year in the country. When it comes to wastage of food, it’s not just industrial farms, supermarkets, restaurant, caterers or other people who are to blame: It’s all of us.

Stop Wasting Food & Start Feeding hungry is an initiative taken by Hidayah Foundation to tackle the problem of wasteful consumption. The focus of the campaign has primarily been to educate the urban population about the staggering figures associated with food wastage in the urban setting. The campaign aims to eradicate food wastage by redirecting the distribution of consumables to the most deserving within the urban and rural setting, through active involvement of governing bodies and common man.

Psychology behind Food Wastage

The psychology of wasteful consumption is directly linked to man’s primitive side which begs the question, is it possible at all to influence people towards better, healthier, less wasteful consumption? Furthermore, if the answer to this is yes, how then can we achieve this? Psychologists, Philip G. Zimbardo and Michael R. Leippe (Zimbardo and Leippe, 1991), have addressed the above questions in their book, “The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence”, and stated a list of practical topics, one of which is a healthy lifestyle. We can use a direct analogy from the book to understand how to fight a systematic problem, created by an irrational system of consumption.

There are two levels of influence, which can be used to bring about changes in people: on the macro level through the mass media, and on the micro level through practical experience from real life situations.

There are four obstructions to achieving any results in terms of food waste reduction.

1) Gaining pleasure from irresponsible behavior.: Due to rampant advertising and marketing in the mass media, the human psyche has been tricked into thinking waste and wealth to be symbiotic. In this context, we see that an average Indian wedding is measured on the magnitude of the crowd, larger the party, more colossal the waste.

2) Unreasonable optimism among people about their individual responsibilities and the planet.: Due to rampant advertising and marketing in the mass media, the human psyche has been tricked into thinking waste and wealth to be symbiotic. In this context, we see that an average Indian wedding is measured on the magnitude of the crowd, larger the party, more colossal the waste.

3) Skepticism about the information on health, food and waste.:Some people will not analyze information that comes their way, and the root of this unwillingness can lie in the over-informative pressure from the mass-media, which give out every day dozens of new details about different aspects of illnesses. People are sunk in the sea of information about what is good and what is not good for them, and as a result, experience an overreaction. What to do in this case, first of all, is to be careful with how the news is prepared; the gutter-press style of sensationalism is not the right method of relationship development, and it is necessary to show that it is easy to reduce waste; the need to outline the efficiency of united actions: risk reduction and any action on the path to a more effective lifestyle of every individual person or the whole of humankind.

4) Competitive information with opposite content.: Information which claims itself to be a better deal, like buy one, get one free, in fact, is just increasing the volume of waste. Companies which produce cigarettes spend millions on market research and advertising; organizations that support a healthy lifestyle have no such money. Our practical experience and years of irrational consumption leads to unfortunate results - it has become a bad habit for all of us, and, in this case, it is necessary not just to give the needed information, but to provide an emphasis based on the right habits, on a daily basis every time on every level of the consumption ladder. It’s not just lack of awareness of how much we waste, however; many of us are oblivious to the personal and societal costs we incur when we waste as well.

Three Step Approach towards Curbing Wasteful Consumption

Knowing the cause of a problem helps in deriving better solutions, there are three steps involved in changing people’s attitudes towards wasteful consumption.

1) A well-planned and organized campaign such as ‘Stop Wasting Food & Start Feeding the Hungry’ is able to increase the level of knowledge and spread awareness on the rising problem associated with Food wastage locally and by large on a global scale.

2) Work on breaking stereotypes.: Stereotypes attached to wasteful consumption needs to be addressed through proactive measures. For example, In Italy, where taking leftovers home is considered poor taste, some restaurants have been working to get patrons to change their perception and encouraging them to save what they don’t finish. In the U.S., many colleges have opted to forgo trays in their cafeterias to make it harder for students to take too much food.

3) Revise individual behavior through collective campaign.:Propaganda itself can rarely achieve the needed results, but, when a well-organized campaign is supported by the law and society, it is possible to achieve the higher final result. Focusing on engaging people with edgy, upbeat messages; a vast social media presence; a lively TEDx talk; and a make-it-cool-to-conserve approach tends to connect well with masses and get the point across in an efficient manner.

An essential psychological shift is needed to change the focus of food production from short-term profit to long-term social responsibility, and to shift the individual consumer’s relationship with food from one of careless convenience to careful frugality.

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