How much food is enough?

How much food is enough?

How many grams of mutter-paneer, how many pieces of chicken legs and how many rotis—pray what size should they be—should Chawla's on Pandara Park in New Delhi, serve per plate?

Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke against wastage of food, Ram Vilas Paswan, the minister for food and consumer affairs, said a lot of food is wasted in restaurants and suggested they cut the portions they serve, so that food is not wasted. Many would wish he had also said that prices be reduced proportionally. There has been anger over the idea that government should step into the area of how much food people should eat at restaurants!

But more important are two points. Should governments regulate the number of prawns that a fine dining place in Khan Market puts on the table? And the presumption that reducing it is the way to deal with wastage of food.

In a free market economy, people will not go to places where the prices are steep, meaning they will stay away when the portions are small for what they are paying. And almost everyone who pays for eating out, chooses where they want to go and what they want to order, polish off the last crumb, and get the left overs, if any, packed to take home.

What may in fact be wasted is the left over food. The way to deal with left over food is something restauranteers and others have discovered long before Paswan became minister or Modi the prime minister who raises such subjects in his monthly mann ki baat.

Members of the hotel owners association in Chandigarh pool the surplus food while it is still fresh and give it to the missionaries of charity, for its inmates.

In Kerala, Minu Pauline, who opened a restaurant called “Pappadavada” saw the poor and starving rummage through the garbage outside, for food. She placed a huge refrigerator, with 50 neat packets of fresh food, outside her restaurant, for the hungry to take. That was almost two years ago. While those 50 packets were her commitment to the idea, she hoped others with extra food to share will also place in the fridge, neat packets of good, clean food.

Now , that is what Paswan should be talking about.

Food gets wasted more at the stage of grains, on account of poor and damp warehousing with pests and rodents running around, roof and walls leaking, attacked by termite, worn and torn jute or plastic sacks, and no accountability. And they are exposed to natural calamities as well!

A 2015 RTI revealed that the quantity of foodgrains damaged in Food Corporation of India godowns across the country recorded a drastic jump in the previous two years—the country lost more than 40,000 tonnes of grains. That is a problem Modi and Paswan could address.

Rich, good, cooked food is often wasted at buffet meals at wedding and other parties. Paswan could of course, sensitise people generally to help themselves to no more than what they can eat. And advise the hosts to give away the extra food, the way the association of restauranteers or Minu do.

Paswan may not be able to easily persuade people to make such shifts. But yes, he can easily address the wastage of foodgrains at the source.

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The Week

Topics : #opinion | #controversy | #food

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