My attempt at making sushi got me thinking about the problem of food waste around the world
'All I want is a bit of fresh, home-made sushi. How come I've got to throw so much away to get it?' Nada Ihab investigates
As a student in Cardiff, I tend to get bored of the usual burger and pizza nights. Because I’m a real foodie, I’m always looking to try new things, from Brazilian feijão, to Egyptian molokheya, to Spanish tapas. For the luckiest of us, food options are almost limitless. We can try all kinds of stuff from all around the world.
One thing I’ve always wanted to try making myself is sushi, so I thought I’d give it a go. But where would I get all the necessary ingredients and equipment from? Later that day I ended up spending three hours walking around town from shop to shop - and eventually found everything I needed. Well chuffed.
A little fishy
Finally, settling down in my kitchen, I began by preparing the rice, which to my surprise came from Italy (where’s the authenticity in that?). Next, I cut up the fish - some yummy salmon from Norway, shrimps from the Philippines, and seafood sticks from Lithuania. Seriously, the total randomness of the countries this stuff came from was a bit of a shock, especially when you consider the UK is surrounded by water! In fact, the country has seen a huge reduction in its fishing fleet, with the number of registered vessels decreasing by 9% between 2004 and 2014. Turns out, the UK imported 721,000 tonnes of fish in 2014!
Then came the fun part: putting my new sushi utensils to use! A bamboo rolling mat, some chopsticks, a small rice mold - all bought for bargain prices from a local oriental grocery store. I even got to have a little chuckle when I noticed they were all made in China. So how did it go? Well, I failed miserably at my first attempt and wasted about a third of the rice. I also ended up only eating half of what I made, and never used the ingredients I bought again. It seemed a shame when they’d
across oceans and borders, in trucks and boats, to reach my fridge.
A small world
Today, it’s probably easier for a peckish student in Cardiff to make homemade sushi than a young fisherman in a secluded Japanese village. But I know what you guys are thinking: ‘it ain’t cheap!’ And yes, prices can often reflect the distance food travels. But regardless of the price, the central idea here is that we live in a world with an unequal distribution of food, where so much of what we produce actually gets wasted.
Around the world, food options are limitless for many, yet scarce for others. The fact is, we do produce enough food to feed all 7.1 billion of us. Unfortunately, a third of all the food produced is never even consumed, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates that food losses amount to $990 billion globally. Such waste does nothing to help the millions of hungry people out there.
Many people living in poverty simply cannot afford to make tasty and nutritious food for themselves and their families. This affects their health, and as a consequence, their ability to work and to earn money, making it even more difficult to escape poverty and hunger. This is what we call the ‘poverty trap’.
Food underpins our lives, our cultures, and our economies. It’s beautiful, fulfilling and fun - and it should be that way for everyone. The problem is that food scarcity remains a reality for millions - and so I think it becomes necessary that do have the luxury of choice to be more responsible when it comes to waste.
Loads of other similar initiatives exist across the world, such as Feeding America, FoodSharing in Germany, and, of course, the World Food Programme and UNICEF, working to provide solutions to the problem of food waste. Just a few months ago, the French government became the world’s first to legally ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold foods. They’re now made to donated them to charities and food banks - a huge win in the global fight against food waste. Let’s hope that many more countries follow their lead.