Lucy Sebli

Throwing away food is like stealing from
the table of those who are poor and hungry.
Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church
& sovereign of the Vatican City State

Kuching Festival which was just launched on July 26 has attracted so many visitors from all walks of life to participate in the event.

One of the main attractions within the festival is the month-long food fair, a mouth-watering event, which consequently became one of the city’s iconic event.

The food festival has become an annual celebration in Kuching, where most of the visitors who were there were either interested in experiencing gastronomic adventure or just enjoying the lively atmosphere.

We, Malaysians are very spoilt for choice when it comes to food. There are so many varieties to choose from.

We are proud of our diversity and the tastiness of our food; why shouldn’t we?

Not only is the event very colourful and ‘smells delicious’, but it also generates income to the state as well as the food vendors who participate in the festival.

If one were to compare this year’s food festival to the previous years, this year’s event is much better in so many aspects; there are more parking space available; more varieties (this year we have Filipino Food); cleaner (more trash bins provided) and the stalls are neatly organised and not too crowded.

However, I was a little bit disappointed when I saw a lot of food being wasted. Food waste can be described as all edible food materials produced for human consumption but left uneaten, either lost or discarded throughout the food supply chain, from farm to fork.

I remembered going to government-organised social functions where dinners were involved. There were so many leftovers and I am sure that most of that food was thrown out. It is not in our culture to tapau leftovers because of certain negative perceptions attached to tapau the leftovers; we are afraid of being labelled as a cheapskate and it is also frowned upon from a social etiquette point of view.

Therefore, as much as we want to, we always refrain ourselves from taking the leftovers home because of the negative stigma attached to it.

At the same time, we have the tendency to buy more than we can consume. All of these, to a larger extent, have contributed to food wastage.

Food wastage is not only common in a festival like this one, but it is also common everywhere you go, especially in all-you-can eat buffet-style eatery.

Food waste is recognised as a huge problem worldwide and is particularly severe now due to food shortages.

According to the UN, the world is currently producing more than enough food to feed everyone, yet 815 million people (roughly 11 per cent of the global population) went hungry in 2016.

It further asserts that by 2050, with the global population expected to reach 9.8 billion, our food supplies will be under far greater stress.

Food waste and food loss are the keys to food wastage which is a growing issue in Malaysia.

According to the statistics provided by Solid Waste Corp (SWCorp) — a government agency dealing with solid waste management in Malaysia — in 2017 alone, Malaysians, generate 38,000 tons of waste per day in which, approximately 15,000 tons are comprised of food waste and the amount keeps increasing.

Besides, Malaysians also reportedly dispose of roughly 3,000 metric tons of food daily that is still fit for consumption.

Most of these foods will end up in garbage bins or the open dumpsites.

According to Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation, 55 per cent of solid waste disposed of at landfills comprise food.

The stench emanating from the rotten foods is unhealthy and the foods attract all kind of critters that have great potential to transmit diseases to the human being.

This is further compounded by the fact that the materials used to package the food are not environmentally friendly.

In addition to that, most of the eatery operators in Malaysia have yet to develop an environmentally friendly business-minded attitude when it comes to packaging their food.

Most of the food is packed in a plastic container which is not environmentally safe.

Most of the material used to pack our food are made from non-degradable materials which can’t be absorbed by nature; thus it always finds its way into our rivers, ocean, beaches, parks and many other public places.

Moreover, take-away food-vendors often provide plastic utensils as part of the marketing gimmicks among other things, to attract customers to buy their food.

Often times, these plastic utensils were thrown out after being used because of its short life-span.

Having said that, there is a lot of non-government organisation out there that have started to pay attention to finding ways on how to reduce food wastage.

I think everybody has to get on board to reduce food wastage.

The relevant authorities also should take more proactive steps to ensure that food-related business contributes their share to help reducing food wastage.

We also need to change the mindset of our society regarding the value of food.

 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.