A valuable lesson to cut food waste

Campaigns in schools across the UAE will teach pupils why it matters that they finish what's on their plate

Pupils at a school cafeteria. PA wire
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One of the lessons that parents anywhere in the world begin to instil in their children at an early stage is to not waste food. In various languages and across countries, mothers and fathers instruct little ones to "finish what's on your plate", and "take only as much as you will eat" – not without setting off tantrums perhaps, and repeating these non-negotiable rules until the child has learnt and formed a habit for life.

When children reach a school age and common sense teachings such as these are reiterated in classrooms, progress is already being made towards a positive and wholesome development of future generations.

Earlier this year, in March, at the launch of a nationwide campaign, the Ne'ma initiative, to reduce food waste in the UAE, President Sheikh Mohamed said current and future generations should follow the example of previous generations of Emiratis who had more sustainable attitudes towards food consumption.

Adding to the theme of that campaign, this past week, the UAE launched a waste-free schools campaign to cut food waste in dozens of schools across the country. There is great sense in teaching this to children of all ages, and making them understand the value of bolstering food security in a country that imports 90 per cent of its food.

Bringing the awareness of pressing global concerns to the classrooms and talking about the solutions is part of a good education.

Calling food loss and waste a global challenge, Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment and Minister of State for Food Security, said recently that 30 per cent of global food production, or 1.3 billion tonnes, is wasted annually.

Besides the implicit right-mindedness of curbing food waste, the less waste that a household's kitchen generates, the less waste ends up in a landfill. This is a good thing, as it helps to lower the deadly emissions released from landfills, polluting the air we breathe and only adding to the substantial environmental challenges the world faces.

Perhaps, one approach to tackle the problem is to consider giving food where it is most needed. The UAE is no stranger to charitable acts, helping those in need. In the spirit of reallocating resources, and instead of letting perfectly safe and edible food go to waste – merely because the quantity of frozen meat or tomatoes bought from the market or restaurants was excessive and would not reasonably be consumed by households of one or two or even large families – proper channels for redistribution could be organised. This would be similar in principle to the function served so efficiently by the UAE food bank initiative or Ramadan fridges over a whole month.

Bringing the awareness of pressing global concerns to the classrooms and talking about the solutions is part of a good education. There will be 63 UAE schools, as part of this campaign, imparting that education, teaching pupils and staff how they can contribute to the UAE’s goal of reducing food waste by 50 per cent by 2030. Sheikh Mohamed has urged a shared responsibility among all members of society to change practices and behaviour that lead to food waste, to ensure a more sustainable future.

When the head teacher echoes values that mothers and fathers may well have already introduced to their children, it strengthens their core values. By the time that children are teenagers, not wasting food would have largely become a habit, and personal commitments made to help improve the environment. It leads to adults practising this at meal times and possibly feeling responsible whenever food is inadvertently wasted. Campaigns such as these have a broad ambit, but they can be far-reaching and essential in forming conscientious behaviour that can go a long way.

Published: December 27, 2022, 2:00 AM