Managing the Food Waste Problem

Did you know that at least 24-30 kg of food is wasted on Woodstock campus daily? To better understand how much that is, that is enough food for around 250 people. As a school that consists mainly of kids coming from well-educated backgrounds, one would think that people would simply take what they need and understand the environmental effects of food wastage better. Food wastage is a severe problem and an issue of deep concern that I believe should be talked about more often, due to the negative environmental impacts it imposes. Around 8-10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused due to non-consumed food. Even simply leaving open milk in the fridge for too long and then discarding it later ends up with the milk rotting away in a landfill somewhere, creating greenhouse gasses. The food and agricultural organization has even stated that one-third of all food produced is wasted. As food is wasted, so are water and fuel – agriculture uses 70% of the world’s freshwater. Moreover, food waste directly translates as land waste too, and is incredibly harmful to biodiversity. 

Currently, there are barely any systems in place to combat the growing global concern about food wastage. Countries like South Korea have taken action against food waste with initiatives like “Pay as your trash”, where people are made to pay the recycling fee for their own food waste. Denmark reduced 25% of their food waste in under 5 years simply by spreading useful and factual awareness, initially started off by a nonprofit organization called “Stop Spild Af Mad”. In India, food waste treatment systems like CHUGG are set in place to help battle the country’s growing food waste problem. However, instead of reducing food waste, it has simply become an excuse for people to waste food as they know there are systems in place to deal with it. I believe that a step toward reducing food waste is a step toward a better future for our environment and we should start with ourselves. Start making more conscious choices with the kind of food you consume and take only what you need. To explore this issue further, we should start at our own campus. 

Speaking with Mr. Ketan Swami, head of food and beverage at Woodstock, has really opened my eyes to the horrors of food wastage at Woodstock. Mr. Ketan broke down for me that there are primarily two main kinds of food waste: waste produced at the hands of students and waste produced in the kitchen during preparation. He explained to me that there used to be a company called SYS that acted as a third party in waste disposal. They would come to campus, weigh the waste and dispose of it. Mr. Ketan believes that food waste is an issue of immediate concern at Woodstock, one that does indeed require the attention of the school. “I’m not saying that we can have zero waste produced on campus but it can certainly be controlled”, he clarifies.  

Current measures that are in place to reduce food waste are using high-quality ingredients and keeping in mind what the students want. Menu heads are appointed by the student council to gather feedback from students and report back to the kitchen, who then takes the responsibility of adhering to any concerns brought up by the students. There are initiatives like the Environmental Collaborative started by the students to help bring awareness to such concerns and to help find solutions for them, by focusing on the root causes for them.  Mr. Ketan makes a humble request to the students to be more mindful by saying, “That is the small part we can do to reduce wastage, the rest is up to the community and we would appreciate it if students would simply take how much they want to eat instead of taking too much and wasting it”. Mr. Swami also put forward that the school could further enforce rules or guidelines to battle this issue by either having strict regulations and consequences in the case of food waste that would be monitored systematically or to have the student body themselves take an initiative. Mr. Swami proposed having a student-led group from different grades where one person keeps track of which students are wasting and encourages taking only what you need on your plate. When asked whether strict consequences should be put in place to combat the growing concern for this matter, Mr. Swami was clear about that being the school’s decision and duty. He made it abundantly clear that at the end of the day, unless the students themselves realize that there is always a larger cost attached to food, especially in a country like India, there will never be any change. Ultimately, students need to learn to not take their privileges for granted. 

Rachel is a guest reporter.

Edited by Asha.

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