A common man’s agenda

A common man’s agenda
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First Published: Mon, Apr 28 2008. 12 03 AM IST
Updated: Mon, Apr 28 2008. 12 03 AM IST
Finally, the world is obsessed with its belly and not with Bush, Laden, Mugabe, Iraq or Iran. Naturally. In one year, prices of rice have escalated by 74%, wheat by 130%, soya bean by 87%, and dairy products by 70%. We are desperately short of food.
With food riots across countries, it is time to look at our food stocks, rather than stockpiles of weapons. Here is a 10-point plan to save some food.
1. Cut a dinner a week: Decades ago, when India was short of food, then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri implored Indians to relinquish dinner every Tuesday. It worked. If two billion people in the world skip a meal weekly, we feed two billion hungry people. If we sleep hungry, we understand how two billion people feel, when they sleep hungry daily. Nowadays, I skip a meal every week.
2. Cut parties by 50%: It is chic for companies and individuals to throw parties at the drop of a hat, at homes or in five-star hotels. Food gets wasted at these parties. If we reduce parties by 50%, we can save a lot of food for the deserving. Celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Scarlet Johnson, the Bachchans, Aishwarya, Jackie Chan, Shakira should avoid parties for a year. Bush and Putin should follow.
3. Store leftover food: There is always some dinner left over. Normally, it is thrown away. At least 10% of the food in many families is wasted daily. Refrigerators and freezers give us the option of storing food for days, if not weeks.
4. Order less at restaurants: We tend to over-order at restaurants. Hosts do not want to appear stingy! However, if you run out of a dish you, can always order more! Restaurants replenish, within minutes. This will avoid wastage. There is no mortification in packing leftover food that can be consumed later.
5. Avoid stocking: When the international media is warning of food shortages, people have a tendency to overstock basic food to neutralize inflation. I, too, plead guilty. I have stocked rice, oil, wheat. I reflected, if six billion people do this, we could have chaos! The world could run out of grains in two months! So, we should avoid panic buying. Like I did. It creates artificial shortages.
6. Start dieting: Many of us are overweight. We dream of being thin, lean. Doctors have charts, recommending the weight according to height and age. This is the time to shed calories.
7. Explore alternative food: We are habituated to our national cuisines. South Indians or Filipinos cannot do without rice. Once a week, try bread! A Pakistani cannot do without “biryani”. Eat a “pasta”, weekly! This will reduce prices!
8. Improve storage conditions: About 15–20% of foodgrains rot due to poor storage, transportation. Rats and insects destroy food. In the UK, 30-40% of all food is never eaten. In the last decade, the UK threw away 15% of the food. Every citizen annually throws away £400 worth of food! This crisis should trigger improvements in logistics and storage.
9. Restaurant leftover food: Every day, many restaurants dump good food which cannot be stored. This could be given to orphanages.
10. Grow vegetables: Many people have space around their homes where they can grow tomatoes, cauliflower, green peas, etc., which can be consumed at home.
The food crisis has been created by politicians who are obsessed with wars and busy canvassing Nobel prizes rather than augmenting the productivity of rice per hectare. They forgot that we eat. We aimed at the stars, but the ground was slipping from under our feet.
These 10 actions will not solve the food crisis. Nor will they provide food to all the hungry. They are sheer common sense. But, we need to do this. Now. These 10 actions could prevent some riots, save some lives. Above all, we will make some difference.
Small, but sure.
Rajendra K. Aneja is the CEO of a foods and retailing company in West Asia. Comment at ­otherviews@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Apr 28 2008. 12 03 AM IST