The topic was food waste management and the various ways which we can adopt to reduce and measure food waste. I started with a few questions - 'What is food waste?' 'How the children think food waste is generated?' 'What do they think can be done to reduce food waste?' 'What happens to excess or leftover food which are dumped into the landfill?'...As usual, the children gave some thoughtful answers.
The idea was to give them an overview on the environmental and social impacts of food waste. This video here provided an outline on the amount of food that's wasted all over the world. It also showed the negative impacts on the society that result from excessive food waste and improper food waste management techniques.
The discussion was not just centered around realizing the ways to reduce food waste, but to try and understand the main causes behind it. This video here takes us through a journey from a farm to a market in the USA, wherein they show how more than half of the production in a farm is wasted and it never reaches the market.
The takeaway from this video was to help children understand the following things:
1. Sellers always target the 'best buyers' who are willing to pay a high price for the produce. The end result is the remaining products are never sold; particularly, to those who need it and thus these end up in the landfill.
2. Buyers are always hunting for fresh and clean produce, but it doesn't necessarily mean that crops that look slightly deformed or imperfect are bad for consumption. But, sadly, these crops are never carried to the market and they are left to rot in the open.
3. Most of the produce that are sold under various tags - primary grade, secondary grade, and so on - are all the same. They are sorted based on colours and textures.
If all these produce that are considered to be 'un-profitable' or 'unappreciative' or 'unattractive' are sold at affordable prices or at least to those who need them, then a large percentage of the global food waste problem can be solved to a great extent. Hence, the global issue of environmental pollution through the release of harmful gases from food degradation can be minimized too.
I was glad to see that the children agree to the above issues and they also understand that by wasting so much of food that's being produced, we are wasting time, effort, water,electricity, soil and also large areas of land all over the world.
To reinforce the idea of the relationship between global food production and depletion of natural resources, we played a small activity. The children were divided into two groups and were asked to fold two pieces of cloth - one medium and another large. They were asked to fold only once and pass it on to the next person in the team, till they can no longer fold the cloth pieces.
This was done to build more depth to their understanding of natural resources and what happens when you are no longer allowed to use the resources due to over consumption [ in relation to the cloth getting soiled in the end]. Two different sizes of the cloth represent that irrespective of the amount of natural resources that we have, they do get depleted over time when you no longer take care of them.
We wrapped up the session with another activity for the children to conduct a food waste audit in their classrooms - and find out how much waste they generate during their lunch break. It could be spillage, partially eaten food, food that gets spoiled and food that goes back to their home.
This audit will help them observe the food that gets wasted most and it could raise awareness in them and their families.