MUSCAT, MAY 14 – Wastage of food continues to be a serious concern and it aggravates during festive seasons. The staggering amount of food that is wasted in the country requires to be addressed with a strong strategy that will minimise and find sustainable utilisation. According to statistics from the Oman Environmental Service Holding Company (Be’ah), hotel kitchens and individuals in Oman throw away food worth more than RO 50 million every year. Another study by Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) based on an analysis of landfills found that 27 per cent of total waste consists of food.
The food waste during Ramadhan is increasing substantially each year. Citizens and residents alike spend a lot on lavish grocery shopping and buy items which are often not at all necessary. The Observer spoke to a wide section of people soliciting their opinion on rise in food waste during Ramadhan. “It’s prohibited to waste or spend extravagantly on food. Any leftover should be given to those who are in need,” said Abdurahiman al Khalili, Head of the Department of Introduction to Islam and Cultural Exchange at the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs.
In the holy Quran, Allah says, “Eat, drink and enjoy, but never waste food and water”. According to Al Khalili, every resource, and every single baisa is a gift of Almighty Allah, and human beings are answerable to the same. “Anyone who spends exorbitantly or wastes money is a brother of the cursed satan”, he said. While moderate consumption and moderate eating are the two virtues to be practised this month, many say it’s the planning stage where people make mistakes and end up preparing too much food with a hope that they would all be consumed.
“The fight against food waste should start from home as it will save money (they won’t need to spend so much money buying food items) and it will help family members understand the value of food and how much money is spent on them”, said Maryam al Shuhi from the Supreme Council for Planning. According to Dr Nigel Kuriakose from the SQU Hospital, there should be a planned attempt to reduce food waste and that fresh unconsumed food can be given away to the needy on the same day and wastage should be avoided. “First of all, shopping wisely is advisable followed by planning your meals and cooking only what is needed. Likewise, checking the expiry date before final purchase of ingredients will help in reducing waste of resources”, said Dr Nigel.
Children should be taught about how to avoid food waste and should be advised on the importance of a simple and frugal diet during this period. When that starts at home, it would eventually reflect in the society, he added. “While being grateful for the blessings of having sufficient food, we also need to be mindful of the less deserved ones who are struggling to find one meal per day,” Farzana Shehzad, a homemaker who was associated with a school, said. “As mothers it is our responsibility to teach our children to have a compassionate heart for the needy ones, to share our blessings with those in need and teach them the rewards that come from the Almighty on the virtues of showing kindness and empathy.”
Fatma el Madkouri, head of business development and branding at the German University of Technology in Oman, advocates having a food waste “audit” in the family every week. “This exercise should stimulate some reflections from parents and children. Also, I would recommend placing fridges at different mosques and communities by civil associations where people could leave cooked food for the needy to collect. This should be done hygienically,” Fatma said. Ratna, a radio presenter, said that apart from feeding the young ones, it’s also important to instil an attitude of ‘No food wastage’ in them. “This starts from the grocery shopping and meal preparation itself. It’s crucial to purchase and prepare the meals in the right quantity”, Ratna adds.
Suparna Banerjee, a teacher with an Indian school, opines that every mother has a huge responsibility to educate her children on the seriousness of the issue. “As a mother of two growing girls I have always taught them not to leave food on their plates. Right from a very young age they were trained to take small servings whether at home or elsewhere so that they do not waste even a morsel,” she said. But what’s hindering us in cooking only what’s needed and take just what you want and not more? Rajive Ahuja, a veteran PR personnel and an acclaimed yoga practitioner said. “It is an ego and pride issue that is making many of us cook more than we actually want”, he commented.
Gayathri Narasimhan, Special Educationist, said, “use right quantities of resource and ingredients for cooking. Any leftover as long is consumable can be neatly packed and distributed to those who are in need”. Nowadays many mobile apps are available to help us to plan, she advises. It is estimated that 40 per cent of food prepared ends up as a waste the cost of which runs into hundreds of billion dollars at a time when nearly one billion people in the world are suffering from hunger. It is everyone’s responsibility to avoid wastage of food.