A “Foodie” trend that’s swept a starving nation
Social consciousness is apparently the new ‘trend’ but it seems that trend is only adhered to as long as it doesn’t interfere with all the luxuries we’ve deemed necessary for ourselves. Over 50% of Pakistani households are labelled “food insecure” with no signs of change in their status. With such a large percentage of the population in this precarious situation, it wouldn’t be wrong to expect a society that shows a conscious effort towards preserving food resources as well as reforms that work towards a more egalitarian future.
And yet, recent trends in the country appear to be taking a completely different direction. Over the past few years, Pakistan’s major cities have seen rapid growth in the number of eateries, restaurants and cafes that are coming up. New food trends are on the rise, and for a select few, there’s even the option of imported dishes that appear to have become somewhat of a status symbol. Estimates suggest that Pakistani’s spend $1 billion on dining out every year. When you look at the fact that most of the population can barely fulfill the basic food requirements of their household, the disparity is startling. Dining out has become more about social interactions than food. Taking someone out for a meal you’ve invited them too is now seen as a lot more acceptable than “ghar ka khaana” (home food) in more than a few social circles. When you bring together interactions with both family and friends, its common to see people dining out 2-3 times a week. It’s important to note that this group is not representative of the general Pakistani population and that to the large percentage who struggle to afford meat on a regular basis, dining out is a luxury they rarely receive. So who’s all the food really for? And why have we not yet prioritized the basic needs of every citizen over this constant desire to turn what we eat into a status symbol.
Although appetites are increasing, it seems our society lacks the sense of responsibility that should come with it. According to some estimates Pakistan wastes around 36 million tonnes of food every year. Statistics actually show that the amount of food wasted from the time of harvest to consumption is enough to fulfill the needs of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
There’s a reason Gluttony is one of the 7 deadly sins, and yet it’s one we Pakistan’s seem to be indulging in with absolutely no thought for the consequences. Not only is this a waste of precious resources that could be put to much better use, such excessive food production and later, waste management have a harsh impact on the environment as well. Consumption is on the rise but it’s not benefiting those who need it most. 18 Million of Pakistan’s richest consume 1.5x more than 72 million of the poorest in the country. It’s high time that those with the privilege and resources to live a life of luxury begin to move out of their perfect bubbles. There’s something to be said about a society where 1/5th of the population is under-nourished while others seem to be splurging on more food than they know what to do with. But responsibility doesn’t lie with citizens alone. Neither does the common man have the power to bring about the kind of change that government officials can. At its most basic level, reforms need to be implemented for better management and allocation of resources. Food insecurity is seen as a “threat and multiplier for violent conflict.” Along with the moral and social implications of the issue, it can also cause political instability and is a key factor in a whole cycle of issues that can hinder development and progress. The disparity between the rich and poor in terms of even the most basic of necessities creates conflict between different groups. It is also seen as a justification for a rise in criminal activity. The consequences of food insecurity are startling. There are as many as 2.5 million children suffering from stunted growth and more than 1 million children are under the age of 5. This is prevalent despite the fact that at national level, supply of dietary energy is more than adequate and has actually been over 100% since the 1990s. In times of hunger and need, many often resort to finding food thrown away in dumpsters and trash cans. It should be a sight that riles up emotions and yet we find ourselves desensitized to it. Even on an individual level, everyone can take a step to improving this reality. If you’re looking for a first step to take there’s so many organisations that could do with some help. Take a look at charities like Risq, Pakistan’s food recovery and distribution service or Robin Hood Army, that focuses on proper distribution of surplus food resources. There’s still a lot to do and no contribution is too small.