Food Waste in PakistanPakistan faces the dual challenges of food insecurity and food loss waste. Ongoing poverty, frequent natural disasters and instability in politics and the economy have contributed to undernutrition and a lack of reliable access to food for some people in Pakistan. According to the World Food Program, more than 20% of the total population in Pakistan suffers from undernourishment. Additionally, nearly 45% of children under 5 years old in the country experience stunting due to chronic malnutrition. 

The issues of poverty, disasters, political changes and economic uncertainty have made it difficult for many Pakistanis to obtain or produce enough nutritious food consistently, especially impacting children’s development and growth. Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition will require strategies that deal with their complex underlying causes. At the same time, significant amounts of food are wasted across the supply chain and at the consumer level. Bridging this gap between surplus production and food scarcity is critical for tackling hunger in the country. 

The Issue of Food Loss in Pakistan

Pakistan is facing an unprecedented food crisis marked by severe wheat shortages. According to reports, the shortage has left many citizens struggling with soaring food prices and inadequate nutrition. Experts warn that if food insecurity continues unaddressed, it could lead to anarchy and instability. The most vulnerable populations in Pakistan are bearing the brunt of the crisis as low-income families battle inflation and critical food shortages without substantial government support. Resolving the complex factors driving the food crisis requires urgent and coordinated efforts by policymakers and stakeholders at all levels.

Efforts To Reduce Waste and Redistribute Surpluses

Individuals, charities and policymakers in Pakistan are working to address hunger and food insecurity through initiatives to reduce food waste and divert excesses to the hungry. A prime example is the Robin Hood Army (RHA), a volunteer-based food charity operating in 145 cities globally. In Pakistan alone, RHA has served over 1.37 million meals to the underprivileged over the last five years. They collect surplus and unused food from restaurants, food companies and events that would otherwise go to waste. RHA’s volunteers, called “Robins,” distribute recovered food to underserved communities, including slums, orphanages, shelters, hospitals and those affected by natural disasters. 

In addition to tackling hunger, the Robin Hood Army also aims to provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged children through its Robin Hood Academy programs. Through recovering and redirecting excess edible food to the vulnerable, charities like RHA play a crucial role in the fight against hunger and food insecurity in Pakistan.

Government Initiatives on Food Waste

To cut down on food waste, the Punjab Food Authority in Pakistan has implemented the Disposal of Excess Food Regulation 2019. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan initiated the Ehsaas program associated with this regulation. All food-related organizations must donate their extra edible food to charity instead of wasting it. The key goal is to provide excess food to people safely experiencing poverty. 

In practice, the Punjab Food Authority coordinates with NGOs to gather surplus food from food businesses and deliver it to vulnerable groups. While other provinces in Pakistan have regulations around food safety and standards, Punjab is the only one so far to establish formal procedures for reducing food wastage. The other provinces could follow Punjab’s lead on this initiative. Implementing similar regulations could assist Pakistan in reaching the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger, which is a critical part of the country’s 2017 National Food Policy.

– Asia Jamil
Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in pakistan
Children are more prone to malnutrition than adults. Half of the children in Pakistan are malnourished, leading to mental and physical health problems. These children are often living in poverty.

Malnutrition caused 54 percent of children’s deaths in 2001. Babies are often underweight from birth due to their mothers’ malnourishment while bearing them. It was reported in 2001 that 14 percent of pregnant women were underweight and 2.5 percent of them were extremely thin. Malnourished children often get infectious diseases and since they do not have the right nutrients to fight off these diseases, it often leads to a never-ending cycle.

Many surveys have indicated that sub-clinical deficiencies in iron, zinc and Vitamin A are widespread among schoolchildren and pregnant women. In the national nutrition survey in 2001 to 2002, it was implied that 66.5 percent of 0-5 year olds were found to be iron deficient, 37 percent with zinc deficiency and 12.5 percent had VAD. It has been found that 5.9 percent, 36.5 percent, 41 percent and 45 percent of pregnant women had sub-clinical deficiencies in VA, iodine, zinc and iron respectively.

One of the more significant, potential causes for malnutrition in Pakistan is the low production of food. Cereal is a big part of Pakistan’s diet, making 62 percent of a person’s energy. Pakistan is one of the few countries to primarily consume milk, but the consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fish is very low. The reason fruits and vegetables are hardly consumed in Pakistan is due to the weather conditions being inadequate for growing crops, and there being hardly any market facilities for the products.

Other causes for malnutrition include poverty, unawareness, population growth, political instability, loss of food stock due to poor harvest and natural calamities. Undernourishment in children has been directly linked with illiterate mothers, low incomes and bigger families.

Here are a few ways malnourishment in Pakistan can be fixed — better farming techniques like using fertilizer that can produce better crops, government policies that ensure food security, programs educating people on how to eat cheaply properly, family planning and a controlled population.

— Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: World Bank, JPMA, The News, FAO
Photo: Save the Children