Preserve your food, protect your table

Preserve your food, protect your table
19 July 2020

Whether primitive or modern, food producers have always held the power in the world. The nutrition of soldiers and poor people were the primary responsibility of states until the formation of modern societies. Along with the Industrial Revolution and the capitalist economic system, states formed policies on job and employment creation. They used the issue of nutrition as a slogan, calling it a "basic human right."

The coronavirus pandemic has once again shown us that social consciousness is important for the future of societies. Nutrition, like health, is expected to become a top priority for states in the near future. Because current government policies ignore the issue of public nutrition, migration spurred on by food shortages, climate change and health problems caused by malnutrition will likely create a massive snowball effect.

Recklessly consumed resources, luxurious habits, waste, those seeking happiness through food and those who destroy agricultural areas for monetary gain are all likely to agitate climate change, leading to food insecurity and hunger.

What is waste?

Waste should actually be perceived as the cause of hunger, not a consequence. Why do we waste food? The scientific explanation for this is very deep. We see no harm in throwing tons of bread in the trash, the value of which we always forget when thinking about food waste. Many of us have salved our own conscience by saying that I am not paying for it anyhow. Tons of paper towels we use to facilitate our cleaning obsessions have triggered the disappearance of many forests and climate change. We have used the carbon footprint of salads we prepare with flamboyant foods from the other end of the world as trendy shares on our social media accounts.

All-inclusive hotels, jumbo-sized plates that offer more food than you need, fashionable desserts that we barely touch, none of them are the harbingers of what will happen.

We are witnessing mind-boggling figures of food waste due to the preferences and insensitivity of modern people.

The retail equivalent of food waste is $1 trillion annually. One in every nine people in the world is hungry. On the other hand, hunger can be prevented by redistributing a quarter of the wasted food. Food loss and waste lead to hunger, nutritional problems and economic losses for stakeholders in the food value chain.

These are just numbers. There are also factors that cannot be expressed in numbers. If not made aware of the topic, children and young people may also act irresponsibly because they are not aware of the problems caused by food waste.

A quote from 13th-century poet and Sufi philosopher Mevlana Jalaladdin Rumi rings true in this instance: "Did we blend the harvest, or we fell into the trouble of wheat, and the harvest blended us?"

If we understand what causes food waste, we can develop relevant solutions.

A significant campaign

In this sense, the “Preserve Your Food, Protect Your Table” campaign is a project that started with the cooperation of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to raise public awareness about food loss and waste and to mobilize all actors in the food supply chain. The launch of the project was originally planned for March but was postponed until May 20th due to the pandemic. By conducting operations online organizers hope to limit wastage.

The first steps of the campaign were taken last year again with the cooperation of the FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry with the "Zero Waste Zero Hunger: Support for Reducing Food Losses and Wastage" technical cooperation project. Within the scope of the project, workshops were conducted, in which many experts and officials from the ministry and relevant departments, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and universities shared their insight and solutions of problems. With the support of FAO technical experts the "National Strategy and Action Plan on Prevention, Reduction and Management of Food Losses and Waste in Turkey " was prepared.

Turkey's first strategic action plan on this issue was introduced to the public by a campaign launch carried out via webinar. All stakeholders of the problem and solution showed great interest in the launch, held with the participation Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli, Viorel Gutu, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Sub-Regional Office for Central Asia coordinator and Turkey representative and coordinator, and Turkey Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges Chairman (TOBB) Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu.

The purpose of the campaign is to tackle the problem of food loss and waste both at the national and international levels, increasing the level of social awareness of all relevant parties and by identifying good practices in the field in Turkey and making it a role model for the international arena.

At the launch of the project, Pakdemirli and Gutu emphasized that a healthy future is possible only if we responsibly consume our food in their opening speeches.

The “Preserve Your Food, Protect Your Table” campaign also draws attention as a project that presents a series of activities that the relevant stakeholders can carry out for retracing food loss and waste with an action plan.

The campaign first defines food waste then tests whether we waste as individuals. Starting in the post-harvest period, the project provides information on very simple but fruitful topics such as food processing, storage, transportation, sales, delivery, utilization and preservation.

The campaign attracted public attention within a short time. This campaign is a part of a detailed study to create permanent behavioral changes. It is now time to take care of the tables for individuals who respect the environment and use their resources carefully. The campaign should be perceived with a national conscientiousness that is unique from other studies. FAO Turkey representative Ayşegül Selışık, whose opinions about the campaign I received, while addressing the aspect of the subject regarding the behavioral change of individuals in everyday life, stated that they aim for all organizations included in the action plan to embrace and adopt actions to prevent and reduce food loss and waste and become part of the change.

"Every five seconds, a child loses her life": If this sentence alone is not enough for individuals to be sensitive and take action, the problem should be more spiritual and structural. Namely, social blindness experienced by people in modern society often prevents action. If the tragic loss of a child does not shake the conscience of a society, perhaps a different discourse for the new period should be considered that emphasizes social responsibility.

The “Preserve Your Food, Protect Your Table” campaign highlights moral values, targeting families and creating solutions in business models. It has already started to stand out as a positive and promising project in this regard.

The biggest mistake made in such projects is the definition of the target audience. The change in behavior is often perceived as a burden and additional work. Groups that gain favor through wasteful habits can be listed as hidden resistance against progressive campaigns.

The baked goods industry that we have been working on for years is the one with the most wasteful. Intermediaries, markets and logistics providers support wasteful trends. In this sense, I think the campaign, which focuses on the causes of the problem and offers structural solutions, will be taken on by all stakeholders in a short time and will get results.

Fighting obesity

Research shows children's eating habits form between birth and the age of 6. In this age range, the rate of obesity is lower in families who eat full meals at the table and home cooking versus those who partake in other eating habits. Of course, the tradition of women setting the table plays a part. Food purchasing, cooking, setting the table and clearing the table are all part of eating habits.

Children who eat in such a context will acquire a valuable level of nutrition and learn proper eating habits. This campaign is a meaningful project that uses the motto of “Protect your table,” which places conscientious families at the foundation of the project.

The campaign, of course, does not only focus on setting tables. Clearing the table is also an important process to protect our food and labor. The value attributed to every meal made, conserving leftovers and being mindful of the shelf lives of ingredients must be important steps to conserve food.

How have human beings who throw the seeds of civilization with the food they produce fallen into the grip of hunger? Strong individuals are even more essential for a strong future. Individuals who share life at the table will reflect the positive characteristics of their elders in their characters and contribute to the healthy future of the planet.

The campaign both personalizes the issue of food preservation with individual and institutional responsibilities and increases the penetration of the project with protective measures in the institutional sense.

In short, the future is based on the traditions and inspiration of our roots.

*Istanbul-based writer, expert on bread making