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Food waste: A moral issue. - Mazingira Safi Initiative
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I remember when I was growing up, wasting food was unacceptable. One of the table manners I religiously upheld was serving food that I knew I would finish. My siblings and I had to spend a few minutes thinking about how hungry we were before we served. We didn’t want to be told that ‘tunaonyesha Mungu tumbo’, (loosely translated to mean that we were being ungrateful to God, yet he has provided food for us). I have carried this behaviour to adulthood. At the risk of sounding judgemental, the same cannot be said of our eating habits today. Statistics show that we have become extremely wasteful.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted. That is 1,300,000,000,000 kilograms of food. They further estimate that six to eleven kilograms of food is lost per person in Africa. This statistic squarely includes us given that Kenya is in Africa. To think of it should make us sick to the stomach as well as bring to our attention the paradox that it is. On the one hand we have massive food waste and on the other hand, we are dying of hunger. Wasn’t it just last month where we heard reports of hunger in the Northern part of Kenya?

Food is lost majorly in two ways: through post-harvest losses and food wastage by consumers. This not only has an impact on food security but also on the environment because it contributes to climate change. Food waste emits about 8% of the greenhouse gases caused by human activities. Our day-to-day actions are clearly turning us into an enemy of the environment! The impact will be felt by everyone. None will escape.

Much has been said about food waste and what could be done locally especially at consumer level. We’re urged to buy and cook what we need, and serve what we’ll finish. But even with this knowledge, we still waste food. This can only suggest that there’s something we’re missing out when looking for solutions to food waste. What is usually lost in between knowing and doing? What drives consumer food waste behaviour? If we are to curb this loss, we should study human behaviour and its contribution to food wastage. This conversely makes food wastage a moral issue.

Food and morality

Morality refers to “an individual’s own principle regarding right and wrong”. It’s different from ethics because it’s internal sourced as opposed to ethics which arises from external sources. If an individual is morally upright, whether there’s someone watching them or not, they will do right and resist wrong. This internal watchdog determines their behaviour. If we are to bring this morality aspect into the issue of food, it will lead us to ask ourselves a few questions: what is our moral view on food and who should instill these morals? In answering these questions honestly, we’re able to examine our attitudes, thoughts and behaviours towards food.

I doubt that people are born and raised with the notion that wasting food is right. I doubt that there are people who think that it’s okay to throw an almost full plate of food down the bin. Not with the issues of worldwide hunger bombarding us daily. These bad behaviours are learnt as we grow up, cemented through daily interactions until all we have are calloused hearts. To effectively reduce food waste, we should work on our morals. Starting today.

What next?

Today, YOU as an individual must decide YOUR dealings with food. You interact with food daily. How will you handle it? Having food before you should instill a sense of responsibility. Parents should make it their goal to instill food friendly behaviours at home. It’s at home that children should learn how to relate with food so that as adults, they will do better, passing the lessons down to generations to come. If this is not the case, it’s up to us adults to teach fellow adults. This can be as simple as prompting your work and life mates to finish their food; stating on a date that whatever is ordered should be finished or carried as leftovers or encouraging donation and composting to make organic manure.

Food is good. Wasting food is not good. Given the cost, STOP WASTING FOOD!

(Image from the internet).

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