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Teach them young: Our kids shouldn’t be food wasters

The 10th part of our 14-day ‘Save Food, Save Lives’ series’ looks into the efforts schools and parents can take to instil food conservation values in little ones.

Millions are struggling to feed their families daily and yet here we are allowing more than a third of our food supply to rot. A ripple of change can go a long way – and we can start it in the UAE during this Ramadan, when lavish dinner spreads are set up every night. The 10th part of our 14-day ‘Save Food, Save Lives’ series’ looks into the efforts schools and parents can take to instil food conservation values in little ones

No one likes to open a refrigerator door, reach to the back and pull out the remains of a dinner spoiled and gone waste. Though it ends up in the bin, people often forget to realise that food wastage has catastrophic effects on the environment.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 30 per cent of food is wasted globally across the supply chain, contributing eight per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the US and China in terms of impact on global warming.

If you have children at home, chances are that you will waste more food than a singles’ household. In this case, educational institutions and parents play a significant role in instilling the importance of food conservation in little ones. Experts say it is imperative that children are taught the values of food conservation from a young age, by educating them that food wastage is a major contributor to global warming.

While some schools are taking steps to raise awareness among its students, parents also say more work needs to be done to get kids to act. Adnan Mohammed, a Syrian expatriate in Sharjah, is a father to two young boys aged 12 and 14. He said: “My sons’ school does have a lesson on food conservation and they come back to speak about some of the activities in school. However, I think a lot more can be done. They continue to be picky about certain fruits and vegetables, and prefer junk food.”

Janani Satchithanantham, a senior dietitian with Aster Hospital in Qusais, said: “Food waste is also a major concern. Wasted food is a huge challenge to our natural resources and our environment.” She said kids tend to mimic their parents, and the latter should set an example for their kids by teaching them to avoid food waste at all costs.

She added: “Be a role model, set an example as a parent. What you do is what they learn from you. Do not use gadgets or watch television while eating. Also, teach other table manners, such as not talking with a full mouth, using a napkin and not reaching across another person’s plate. Engage them in preparing the meal.”

She also stressed on the importance of planning the shopping. “When we discard food, we’re also discarding a lot of healthy nutrients. Especially, the most perishable foods that we tend to throw away are vegetables, fruits and seafood. Plan your grocery shopping accordingly and do not overstock perishable food in your refrigerator.”

Other experts also said that kids tend to take wastage seriously at a young age.

Moreover, some families and schools are taking conscious steps to tackle food waste in society.

Take Indian siblings and students of GEMS United Indian School Sainath (11) and Sai Sahana Manikandan (9) for example. The duo is young environmentalists and youth ambassadors of Drop It Youth and Tunza Eco Generation. Their mother Lalitha Manikandan said: “My husband and I, and my children attend various cleanup campaigns organised by various environmental agencies.”
She added: “My children have initiated and launched their own campaign Green Ramadan “PEPC Campaign” and are collecting recycling materials such as papers, electronic wastes, plastics and cans.”

However, a big part of the students’ campaign is also raising awareness on the importance of not wasting food as it usually increases during the holy month of Ramadan.

Sainath said: “Middle East nations are acknowledged as being the world’s top food wasters, and during Ramadan, the situation takes a turn for the worse. We must try to be mindful by paying attention, being conscious of not only what we’re putting into our bodies in Ramadan, but also what we don’t need in the first place.” His sister Sai Sahana said: “Food wastage is a wastage of energy and resources used in its production. It harms the environment. It deprives others of food – the food you waste is the food stolen from a hungry stomach. It is a social crime.”

Schools such as the GEMS Our Own Indian School in Al Quoz, Dubai, have been active warriors of food conservation since 2015. The school grows a large sustainable urban garden that provides it plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. “We have a total of 2,370sqm of cultivated space, interestingly converted to garden ‘plots’, with no less than 170 species of plants being grown on them,” said school principal Lalitha Suresh.

dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

KT tips and tricks ?for the #FoodSoldier? in you

Throughout the course of our campaign, Khaleej Times will reveal three food conservation tips and tricks every day. Follow these to become the number one #FoodSoldier

1  Preserve produce.

Produce doesn’t have to be tossed just because it’s reaching the end of its peak. Soft fruit can be used in smoothies; wilting vegetables can be used in soups, etc. And both wilting fruits and veggies can be turned into delicious, nutritious juice.

2 Treat expiration and sell-by dates as guidelines

When it comes to expiration and sell-by dates, we recommend not paying much attention to them, as they identify food quality, not food safety. Trust your senses instead of the date on the package. Trust your sense of smell, sight and taste.

3 Keep track of what you throw away

Manage a waste log to keep an eye on what you’re throwing out so you can prevent doing the same in the future. The other side is to keep track of what’s already in your fridge before you go shopping. That way, you won’t double-up on products and fail to use them before they go bad. As obvious as that sounds, we all forget to do it from time to time.

Contest alert: Are you ready to be KT’s #FoodSoldier?

‘Don’t’ bin it, to ‘Win it’

Are you wondering how to become KT’s #FoodSoldier and win gifts worth Dh9,000? Here are three simple steps!

Step 1: Share your meal plan and food conservation tips and tricks with us with the hashtags #KTfoodsoldier #SaveFoodSaveLives #KTforGood

Step 2: Share pictures of the insides of your refrigerator with the hashtags #KTfoodsoldier #SaveFoodSaveLives #KTforGood

Step 3: Post a selfie video telling us about your how important food conservation is to you with the hashtags #KTfoodsoldier #SaveFoodSaveLives #KTforGood

Step 4: Become a winner! The individual with the most innovative solution will win a 760-litre French refrigerator; a 42-litre oven toaster grill; and a blender. Two runners-up stand to win a 500-litre refrigerator each.
Applications open till May 15!

Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88


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