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Food Waste Around the World, Episode 27: India

Food Waste Around the World is a Food Circle’s project aimed at providing information and raising awareness about food waste. The project is designed as a series of interviews with students coming from different countries with the aim of understanding how this issue is tackled and perceived around the world. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a uniquely multicultural environment.

Today we speak with Vinutha from India!

"Food waste is a huge issue in India. From what I know, more than 40% of the annual production is wasted, even before it is packed. "


Hello Vinutha! Welcome to this interview and thank you for participating in the project ‘Food Waste Around the World’. To start, could you tell me where you are from and a little bit about yourself?

Hi! My name is Vinutha and I’m from India. I moved to the Netherlands almost one year ago with my husband. In India, I used to be a project manager in a multinational company and afterwards, I moved to Haarlem. Just recently, I applied for Sapient because I’ve always been interested in food waste and other environmental issues. I thought it was very interesting and close to my ideology, and that’s why applied.

What about the food waste issue in India, is it a big concern?

Food waste is a huge issue in India. From what I know, more than 40% of the annual production is wasted, even before it is packed. According to UNICEF, India has one of the largest malnourished populations in the world

I see. You said that you’re living in Haarlem. Do you notice any difference in what you see in India compared to the Netherlands?

I would say that any small step India is taking recently has already been addressed here, concerning food waste. I worked in Amsterdam’s food bank and I understood how they save food. About 16,000 families reap benefits from the rescued food at these locations. All the food rescued from the food bank is from supermarkets like Albert Heijn and Picnic. I saw vast quantities of rescued food - enough to feed a small city. Here, it’s very easy to reach the facilities. In India, it’s still complicated to build a food bank, but we are making progress.

That’s impressive! In India, who is driving the movement to address the food waste issue? Are there any NGOs or other organizations tackling this problem?

Yes, there are a lot of organizations, but the problem is that they are too small to be significant. I have seen how food waste is tackled in my city and one of the main initiatives is rescuing food from our weddings. In India, we have these large weddings where there are over 500 guests and, in such an event, there are always vast quantities of leftover food. Therefore, several organizations and initiatives, such as Too Good to Go, collect food leftovers from weddings and redistribute it. You call them up and they come with containers. First, they make sure that the food is in good condition and they take it. This food is redistributed between people in need. In India, you see poverty on every corner.

Also, there are a few hotels or restaurants which will penalize you if you don't finish all the food that you've ordered, charging you extra on the bill.

I see. Is the government acting somehow to tackle the food waste issue?

As of 2017, there are six new measures and regulations on how to handle food waste. The government is building large food parks where non-perishable food such as grain, cereals and lentils can be stored. The government is also working at the supply level; improving transportation to support food sustainability.

Do you think that the government will do more in the future?

I think that actions are increasing. Being one of the most populated countries in the world means that there are a lot of issues to deal with. We still have undernourished kids, so that is a priority for the government. It is getting better, but again, they can do a lot more.

It’s true. Do you think you also need action from the people, for example, raising awareness during education?

Sure. People should learn to be more responsible. I learned from my mother that an onion or an apple should never be wasted, even if it doesn’t look that great. We also have the habit that if we are eating as guests in somebody’s home, there is no way you can leave even one tiny morsel on the plate, you have to leave the plate clean or else you get proper schooling from your elders. So, rescuing and reusing of food was something that I learned from my mother and I think most homes teach that to kids.

I think that spreading information about the importance of the food waste issue would make a difference.

Yes, I agree. It was interesting speaking to you, Vinutha. Thank you for participating!

Thank you for having me!


Interviewer: Andrea Di Bernardo

Interviewed: Vinutha Hegde

Editor and writer: Andrea Di Bernardo

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