After years of steady improvement, the World Hunger Index dipped again post 2019, largely due to the devastating impact of COVID-19, the increased conflicts around the world, and climate change. Humanitarian organization, Action Against Hunger found that from 2019 to 2022, the number of undernourished people grew by as many as 150 million with global hunger presently affecting nearly 10 percent of the world population.
Our own country Pakistan, is sadly at the wrong side of the hunger scale. According to the Global Hunger Index 2022, Pakistan ranked 99th out of 121 countries, with its hunger level marked ‘serious’. The country initially made significant progress in reducing undernourishment, decreasing it from 21.1% in 2000 to 13.4% in 2014. However, this progress reversed, and by 2022, the percentage of undernourished citizens had risen to 16.9%.
The International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (IDAFLW) serves as an earnest reminder of our responsibilities towards our fellow humans facing hunger and malnourishment. This year, the theme is ‘Reducing food loss and waste: Taking action to transform food systems’. Experts emphasize the need to make the process of ‘farm to fork’ efficient and sustainable, while also taking up individual and household responsibility to help curb food loss and wastage.
With a forward-thinking vision aimed at fortifying the nation’s future, Sunridge Foods has embarked on a noble mission to alleviate hunger and provide nourishment to the most vulnerable segments of society. Through a series of strategic partnerships with government bodies, NGOs, hospitals, orphanages, and compassionate individual donors, the ‘Sunridge CSR Campaign’ has emerged as a beacon of hope, uniting a diverse array of stakeholders in the battle against food insecurity.
In a successful collaboration with the Governor of Sindh, Sunridge Foods has distributed essential ration packs to over 100,000 individuals in dire need. These ration packs contain fortified Sunridge products, including wheat flour, rice, sugar, lentils, and cooking oil. To ensure transparency and equitable distribution, they issued 100,000 registration cards to the beneficiaries. These cards serve as a means to confirm eligibility for assistance and act as safeguards against fraudulent activities.
Furthermore, Sunridge Foods established partnerships with various medical institutions and NGOs to extend support to a broader range of individuals facing hardship. Collaborating with institutions such as NICVD, NICH, MMI Hospital, Kutiyana Memon Hospital, JPMC, and Civil Hospital, and distributed 1,000 ration packs at each hospital. Similarly, in conjunction with JDC, Saylani, Hands Foundation, and Faizan Global Relief Foundation, Sunridge Foods has provided 50,000 ration packs to individuals experiencing difficulties.
This campaign stands as an exemplary illustration of commendable and professionally executed efforts that seamlessly align with the objectives of SDG 2. Sunridge Foods, by pooling resources and determination, actively combats food insecurity and works diligently towards ending malnutrition, to date we have reached 150,000+ families. With a resolute commitment to SDG 2, Zero Hunger, echoes their collective dedication to shaping a brighter and more secure future for all citizens of Pakistan.
The challenge is daunting. The World Food Program estimates that nearly one-third of the world’s food production, valued at roughly $1 trillion, is wasted annually. It is a staggering 1.3 billion metric tons of food being discarded instead of feeding people. Whether reducing food wastage will actually contribute to the reduction of global hunger is a question that requires extensive research. Nevertheless, the situation presents an unequivocal ethical dilemma that cannot be ignored.
Food loss and wastage manifests at various stages of the food supply chain, and unsurprisingly, the dynamics differ for both the developed and developing countries. In developing countries, inadequate harvesting practices, subpar storage facilities, and transportation issues contribute to substantial losses during production and post-harvest phases, while the developed nations witness significant food waste at the retail and consumer levels.
The issue has persisted despite its multiple and far-reaching consequences, which include a huge negative environmental impact. To start with, when food is wasted, the resources invested in its production are also wasted. Then, the decomposition of discarded food in landfills generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas known to contribute significantly to climate change. Large-scale agriculture associated with wasted food often results in habitat destruction, deforestation, and the use of pesticides and fertilizers, causing harm to ecosystems and biodiversity. Pakistan unfortunately is already among the top ten most vulnerable countries to the impact of climate change.
If a single private, crowd-funded digital application, ‘Share the Meal’ can help save countless lives by providing healthy and nutritious food, governments, private players, and individual citizens can do so much to ensure food security globally.
It takes a strong will and a compassionate heart to change things. We can start by doing as little as neatly packing our surplus food and donating it to deserving families. The compassionate act can cause a massive ripple effect of good in society. The process can be systemized by each neighborhood by placing a simple low-end refrigerator at designated spots to store donated food. It will preserve the freshness and nutritional value of food as well as the dignity of those accepting the donations.
At the national level, Pakistan’s agriculture sector needs serious reforms to achieve its full potential. It needs to modernize its technology and agro-practices to enhance its growth and sustainability. A large section of our farmers remains illiterate, relying on archaic farming practices, resulting in low yield. The sector faces an acute shortage of storage facilities, and inefficient farm to market transportation infrastructure, which apart from leading to spoilage of tons of food also enables financial exploitation of farmers. What remains is an underutilized sector filled with potential but offering little incentive to the producers.
We need to adopt best practices and contemporary technology. Technology is doing wonders in enhancing the growth and sustainability of food industries globally. Tech integration can enhance the financial growth of agriculture-related SMEs in Pakistan and make our supply chain faster, more efficient and sustainable. The food processing industry should also extend support to small stakeholders associated with the supply chain system, primarily through skill development and technical support.
On IDAFLW 2023, let us firmly internalize the fact that food loss and wastage perpetuate hunger, strain our environment, and waste precious resources. We need individual and collaborative action to ensure that the food is used efficiently and reaches those who need it the most.