I am currently studying International Development. Before this I studied Economics. And while I am trying to branch away from it a bit, certain things have stuck with me that I find myself applying or just thinking about in relation to my current studies. So as we discussed food justice, sovereignty and waste, I thought of the microeconomic theory of Non-satiation. This in its own way made consider if this is one of the causes of the current food waste problem, if we will ever have enough food and so, less waste. And the possible, impossibility of dealing with these issues. Reading through literature in this interest, I have come think differently.
Non satiation is elementary economics. The theory basically states that: if you prefer more of some amount good or service, then even when the amount is greater you will still prefer more. You will always want more, “it” (whatever it is) will, in theory, never be enough. More knowledge, more choice, more freedom, more sovereignty, more food, more, more, more! This influenced my name: Njalayamuyaya. Three words actually: Njala ya muyaya which in my mother tongue translates to eternal hunger. It led me to question if food follows non satiation.
Eating food, does not conform to this theory. When we eat, we reach a point of satiation. A point of fullness after we have begun eating due what our body tells. This is different from satiety that is the feeling of fullness, the absence of hunger. When we eat we reach a point where more food is no longer desirable. That moment when you question the wisdom of that extra spoonful.
So why do we have so much food waste when we know we can only consume so much. When we do reach saturation. One would think, with the way our body’s tend to regulate our consumption, we would reach a point where we have little or no excess food in our lives hence waste, yet a third of the world’s food, 1.3 billion tonnes is lost or wasted.
Food is wasted in different ways at different stages of the food chain. From production, to processing, distribution and consumption, food is lost or wasted. While waste at all these stages matter, it is on household consumption and the practices surrounding it, that this blog focuses. This is because not only can we take near immediate action on it but, also because a third of food waste comes from households.
So how is Food Wasted?
- buying more than you need
- lack of clear knowledge on storage and labelling
- over estimation of portions
What Can We do?
There are several things we can start practicing to reduce food waste
Shop Smarter: Shopping lists are your friend. Preparing a shopping list, after having checked your food stocks is a good way to avoid duplication in your kitchen. This also means you must plan your meals so your groceries are adequate.
Portion Control: Know how much portions you are preparing. Look up portion measures to help you cook the correct amount of food. For example, a mug of rice is enough for four people and a quarter of a mug for one. Simple measures like these will reduce leftovers that may otherwise go to waste.
Get Creative: Apart from simply refrigerating or freezing leftovers, think of other ways you can use them
Donate: To food banks and kitchens. Think of what other purpose food can serve other than filling you bin.
Of all these food saving options, I constantly come back to the first. Shop smarter. And as walk I down the aisle in Aldi, with my phone in my hand and shopping list pulled up, I can’t help but get some extra chicken, some peaches on top of the nectarines and kiwi, and cheesecake. These items are not on my list. I won’t eat it all at once but it will feel good to know that I have options. I will eat it all eventually, I assure myself. I pick up some mangoes too, I have a lot of fruit already but they look too good to pass up. I wonder why I still shop a little irrationally. Does non satiation not occur when I eat but when I shop?
While I find some economic theories applicable in the knowledge I am acquiring, this particular case had me thinking differently. This may differ among people but, I have come to realise the reason for irrational shopping is reasons. Reasons we give ourselves for why it is okay to buy more food than was on our list. Reasons like, its on promotion, I’ll need it later, I deserve it and sometimes just simple impulsiveness.
Reducing food waste personally is not impossible due to this particular theory, unless you make it your reason. For all these practices that reduce food waste we can have reasons not to practice. You could cook a bigger portion because you may need it later, fail to reinvent left overs because you do not have time and fail to donate because the food bank is too far way. We can get pretty creative in finding reasons not to do things which is why reducing waste is not simply a decision. It is more and requires commitment and discipline. And while it may not be as easy as writing a shopping list it still can be done.