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Food Wastage in Indian Weddings


A few days back, I came across this article. Briefly, the article talks about how huge amounts of food gets wasted in Indian weddings. The point is very valid and was raised by a politician.

Every time food inflation comes as a topic for discussion, formal or informal, it almost always goes in the same direction. People start beating up government for carelessness and corruption. Why don’t we reflect on our own lifestyle and understand how our own choices are causing, or enabling the problem to happen?

As the Indian middle class is getting more affluent, the number of functions is growing and so is the guest list. We have functions for birth celebration, first birthday celebration, parties, engagements, marriages, promotions, sixtieth birthdays, marriage jubilees and even 13th day after death. Lot of people get invited to each of these.

Just inviting people for functions is not a problem. Because if a person eats at one place, he/she would save food he/she would have eaten somewhere else. The problem is, as mentioned in the article, there is no RSVP culture in India. We send invites, but we don’t ask people whether they are planning to attend or not. The host does not get any feedback and has no clear idea of how many people will show up. Certainly if more people showed up unexpectedly and had no food, it would be embarrassing. So they just end up making enough for a large number of people. This results in wastage of food, cooking gas and manpower. And because electricity is costly and food storage equipment is not so easily available, huge amount of food goes waste.

Then we have people offering food and oil to gods. While so many people are going hungry, we are bathing idols of our gods in milk and honey. We throw rice on the couple in marriages.

There is also a lot of wastage in how we get our food. The last end of our food and vegetable supply chains are street vendors, who lack adequate infrastructure to store food to reduce waste.

Our best of the best software engineers are writing a software to run banks in US and Europe. Can’t we launch a website that makes RSVPing happen in marriages? Yes, that will need cultural change. But our best of the best MBAs are launching marketing campaigns worldwide to increase market share of consumer products worldwide. Can’t we launch a cultural change campaign?

We make choices and every choice has consequences. Sadly when faced with consequences of our choices, we externalize the blame. We find someone else to fault. We imagine only of that evil outside somewhere is fixed, we the pious and pure people would continue living our pristine and perfect lives.

If we saved all this food, it would suddenly make extra food available, thereby reducing food demand and eventually reducing good prices. Here are some ideas I have.

1. Eat the food in order of expiry date or time. Eat that food first that is going to go bad first.

2. Call the party/wedding host and tell them whether you will attend the function and exactly how many guests will you bring with you. If you are a party host, tell your guests about the food waste problem (or show them this article) and ask them for confirmation. Don’t be embarrassed. Real Indian culture is in sharing, saving, reducing waste and making most out of least. So be direct and upfront about it. False pride and denial is not real Indian culture.

3. Don’t be ashamed to pack your leftover food in restaurant and take it home.

4. In weddings, throw just one rice at a time instead of a handful.

5. Gods would be much more happier with us if we offer only flowers to idols and offer real food to real humans.

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2 Responses

  1. a very valid point. about 6 years back when my sis got married we had to throw away 50 kg of pulao and 150 rasgullas in addition to many different kinds of vegetables/chutneys/vadas … we did not have the heart to do this wastage. since it was wedding season, it was not possible to distribute all this food even in the temples. it still hurts me to remember all those expensive rice/ghee/condiments/dry-fruits in the pulao. my family is a very conservative family … we take food to be sacred and even one grain of rice thrown away makes us terribly guilty. can’t help … that is the way my parents have brought us up.

    it was the first marriage in my family and since then we learnt the lesson. when my second sis got married, we deliberately cooked lesser food and more or less all food was consumed (including the morning after breakfast) …

    i wish we had a less ostentatious culture

  2. Here is one little thing you could do at weddings instead of throw rice (just a tiny help, but every little bit does help)- scientists found out that the rice was hurting some of the birds and animals that ate it, so at lots of weddings in America each guest gets a little container of bubbles like the kind you get at the dollar store, and then they blow lots of bubbles for the guests to run under. it is really pretty, and if there are extra bubbles, kids would love to play with them so there wouldn’t be any waste. Fancier weddings have sparklers that people hold while the bride and groom run through, that is pretty too. Just a little idea.

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