Nudging to prevent food wastages….

I posted about how Indian government is trying to sensitize children towards wasting food.

Now it takes a step further. It had earlier also specified that people waste too much food at weddings and social functions. This needs to be curbed. They have done a study along with Centre for Consumer Studies at Indian Institute of Public Administration (not yet public) on the initiative.

BS covered the results in this press release.

Next time you get a wedding invitation, don’t be surprised to see a pictorial representation urging you not to waste food.

Such a moral persuasion could become a reality if recommendations by a study conducted for the Ministry of Consumer Affairs are implemented. The Centre for Consumer Studies under Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) has suggested steps such as pictorial messages asking people not to waste food and mandatory packaging of unused or unserved food in hotels and restaurants as solutions to stop wastage of food at social gatherings.

The report, Assessment of Wastage of Food and Ostentatious Behaviour During Social Gathering, however, does not suggest any legal control on the number of guests at a function. 

So like posters showing not to smoke, cross railway tracks etc. we will now have posters in wedding/social functions  nudging people not to waste food.

Interestingly, we had such orders earlier:

Such a rule was in force in 1960s and 1970s. There was also a cap on the number of dishes. The Assam Guest Control Order, 1966, and the Mizoram Guest Control Order, 1972, capped the number of persons at wedding or funeral feasts at 100. Many states also executed similar orders then. 

Capping people at wedding might be a bad idea but nudging people not to waste food is a decent one. It will be difficult to put such posters on weddings but can be shown via various media channels. CCS website has posters of many such initiatives. One could tie with wedding planners and various parties in the chain to sensitise families on this as well.

What does the study show?

The first-of-its-kind analysis on the level and extent of food wastage in social gatherings commissioned by the consumer affairs ministry has found that 15-20 per cent of the food that is served in social gatherings is wasted, of which maximum wastage takes place in marriages, followed by seminars and conferences.“Taking into account the population of the country and volume of social functions being organised, the wastage is on a higher side,&” the study says.

Indians spend around Rs 3 lakh crore on weddings every year. If that much amount is spent this financial year also, it would mean 3.37 per cent of the country’s GDP, according to advance estimates, for 2011-12. Almost 87 per cent of the respondents in the study said that wastage is more in urban areas and less in rural areas.

The analyses was done on the basis of a five-city survey in Delhi, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Noida and Faridabad and is based on responses of around 1,000 caterers, hoteliers, wedding planners, waste management staff and public. 

The study shows buffets are more wasteful.

The maximum food wastage is at buffet system, while the least quantity of food is wasted when food is served by family members. “Almost 75 per cent of the respondents said that food wastage is high in the buffet system, which is a western method, and 44.1 per cent said there is no wastage in food that is cooked and served by the family members,&” notes the report.

In the buffet system, guests can always help themselves to a second serving if they like anything in particular, but many don’t do this and fill their plates once and for all, it added.

The study has concluded that wastage is higher when the number of dishes served is more and wastage is the least when less number of dishes is served. “The main course in a typical middle-class wedding or function comprises 10-12 vegetable dishes, different types of dal, pulao and breads, while in the upper strata of the society, the menu list goes up to 100-150 items,&” the report states.

Among all the food served in social gatherings, vegetables, chapattis and rice are the most wasted. “By taste and habit, Indians like eating hot food. If chapatti or roti is not hot, they will not eat it, hence wastage is more in such items,&” the report says. 

Another thing could be to ask people to keep their plates in special bins (not garbage ones) which could then be sold/given as leftovers for animal feed:

The most disturbing fact is that most of the wasted food is thrown in garbage bins making them unusable even for animals sometimes. In hotels and restaurants, the leftover food from plates is sold as animal feed for pigs and other animals at Rs 22 a kg.

 Very interesting and intuitive findings..

This blog has been suggesting govt to set up a centre for behavioral sciences. The centre could look at all these issues and brings insights from behavioral research.  Much like UK which has set up a similar centre which is bringing some interesting insights from the field.

4 Responses to “Nudging to prevent food wastages….”

  1. Neha Arora Says:

    Really, Interesting Findings.. actually we waste lot of food in weddings especially. Would be a good idea if we can convey the underlying message through media channels or at least can start by word of mouth

  2. Atul Mittal Says:

    Lot of food is wasted in buffet systems of canteens of various corporate/offices. As their are queues, people fill their plates with everything, and waste quite a few items not liked by them. One interesting way to reduce this wastage(can be used in social gatherings as well) is to mandate people to throw food left in their plates to special separate bin, before putting their plates in garbage bin for washing. I have seen this rule in one of the canteens.

    It helps a lot in reducing wastage as whosoever leave some food in plate has to put in extra effort to empty their utensils in special bin before putting their plates in garbage bin. People also feel bit embarrassed too revealing socially how much food they have wasted while emptying plates in front of everyone. Also that special bin can be used to use that waste food for animals easily.

  3. Dr. G. Satyanarayana Says:

    This type of study is a eye opener and for a country like ours is a must. Farmers work hard on the field for producing and people in urban area ( and rural area ) waste food in social functions like marriage, parties, functions and feasts. This must be avoided. While house wife takes care at house level and who takes care at special functions. Asking people not to waste in functions appears to some what rude but there should be some awareness in entire India in particular and the world in general.

    Coming days are not as good as the past days. Agriculturists are leaving the agriculture to a some extent because of their personal reasons, and some what migration taking place to nearby urban areas ( some people who depend upon are agriculture, farmers, or workers). Prices are going to rise and already we find a double digit inflation. I urge all Indians and people in the world to take this matter to houses, class rooms, village meetings and urban and do some thing towards ending this or avoiding this. By this, all people get some thing to eat. We have to eliminate one one side food waste and one side hungriness.
    Dr. G. SATYANRAYANA

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