Pakistan 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