Wasting food

MasterChef (a competitive cooking game show) is beginning its new season in Australia. Forgive me if I don't share the enthusiasm. After travelling in underdeveloped countries for two years, my perspective may be somewhat different.

There are so many countries where food is a scarcity; where people value every scrap and morsel of food - whether it is tasty or foul, fresh or rancid. It makes me so sad to see such waste on television cooking shows. Not only that, but condoning the waste and discarding of food if it doesn't quite meet the taste-test. "I can't serve that!" says the contestant, as he throws the mildly over-cooked food into the trash. "Everything has to be perfect."

This is such disrespect for the world's starving people. MasterChef, and other such shows, encourage viewers to experiment with food in their own kitchens. And, because it has accumulated such a viewer following, the producers have now also created a Junior MasterChef show... so that children may also be encouraged to experiment with food.

Do people have no social conscience? Personally, I know what it is like to be hungry. And I have lived with those who live in lack. Maybe it is this perspective that causes a great sadness to come over me any time I see food being discarded. In western society, we exhibit a culture of excess; a culture of waste. However, in the real world around a billion people are currently undernourished (as reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization).

In 2006, more than 36 million people died of hunger or diseases due to deficiencies in micronutrients, and today over 16,000 children die per day from hunger-related causes.

Furthermore, let's not forget that the earth's population is growing at an incredible rate (see graph, below). Geologist Dale Allen Pfeiffer claims that coming decades could see spiraling food prices without relief and massive starvation on a global level such as never experienced before.

The following excerpt is from Scientific American:

Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos. Such “failed states” can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees. Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures from global warming are placing severe limits on food production. Without massive and rapid intervention to address these three environmental factors, the author argues, a series of government collapses could threaten the world order.

But sure, the photo is very humorous - that photo which donned the front page of the newspaper. Yes, very funny indeed, with all the cooked pasta used as a humorous prop. I hope when Australia too begins to suffer from the inevitable food shortages of the growing world, those involved, and the reckless, can exhume the newspaper clipping with that photo and be satisfied with themselves.

Perhaps you don't think this issue will ever affect you personally... but do you have any children?

Here is some food for thought (pun intended): Risk of Future Famine