In a big fat Bangladeshi wedding, one might get caught up with the lights, decor, flowers, saris, sherwanis and honeymoon plans, but what's often not on the checklist is, what happens to the food that is left when all the guests have left?
But that too is being taken into consideration these days, it seems.
Nihad Ferdous, a banker who got married last September, says, "One thing that I did not want to have at my wedding was wastage of food. We were spending so much on everything, so why not research a bit more and find ways to use the excess food?”
That's when he came to know about a group of volunteers who were involved in distribution of food among homeless people and underprivileged children. Before the wedding, Nihad contacted them and told them that whatever food was left over, they could collect it and distribute it to the needy.
The NGO—Prochesta Foundation sent a group of volunteers and collected the food from the wedding. “I felt good that I didn’t let the food go to waste in my wedding,” says Nihad.
What to do with excess food from weddings?
Banking on the good intentions of people like Nihad and others, Prochesta Foundation has been collecting foods and re-distributing them among the poor since May 2016.
Ikram Uddin Ahmed, the founder of Proceshtha Foundatoin said that the idea of taking such initiative came to his mind after he consulted with the famous blogger Arif R Hossain, who acts as the advisor for the foundation. Hossain advised them to collect the excess food from weddings.
Ikram said, one of the most disheartening sights at a wedding venue is that kilos of food being scraped off plates into bins.
“And it's not just leftovers—the perfectly good food that remains after the last of the workers have eaten is also thrown away. It’s sad if you consider the fact that on the same night, thousands of kids would go to sleep on an empty stomach.”
Ikram, through his foundation, took a project titled ‘Food Bank’ and opened up a hotline so that their volunteers can be contacted for collecting food from the wedding venues. “We have over 300 volunteers and we dedicate about 50 of them for our Food Bank Project.”
The first call that Prochesta received was from a small community centre in Khilgaon.
“It was May 17, 2016 and I still remember the date. From then till now, we have collected wedding leftover meals good enough to feed over 50,000 people from over 150 weddings,” said Ikram.
He said that the way they operate is very simple. “You go to our Facebook page, or our website. Call in our hotline (01618-002024) which is open 24/7. Give us your address and we will be there on time to collect your food.”
What about responsible catering?
Md Nasim Hossain, managing partner of Iqbal Catering, one of the largest and most famous catering services of the country, said that it’s hard to tell the amount of food that is wasted on average in a typical Bangladeshi wedding.
“We provide catering services all over the city and with our three decades of experience, I can tell you that there is no such thing as an ‘average food wastage’.”
He said guest attendance to the wedding depends on a lot of factors including timing, venue, locations, weather and political conditions. “The hosts ask us to prepare food for a certain number of people. In atypical wedding that takes place at Raowa Club, there are always more guests than the dishes, whereas in weddings that take place at Bashundhara Convention Centre or Golf Club, 30-40 percent food remains uneaten because of low attendance.”
Hossain said in Bangladeshi weddings, there is usually no system of RSVP to let the host know whether the guest would come or not. “It would have obviously been helpful for the host,” he added.
“From our catering house, we have already trained our waiters about responsible catering. We trained them to monitor the tables and serve food there in accordance with the consumption of the table. We also make plans of putting on some placards at the wedding venue about 'not wasting food',” he said.
Tips for stopping food wastage in weddings
Guests come to a wedding to shower their blessings on the happy couple. They are not there to explore a food tasting event. Now, it doesn’t mean that you limit the menu, but also doesn’t imply that it has to be very elaborate. Choose your dishes wisely, keeping in mind the quantities.
A norm abroad but ignored in Bangladesh, RSVP is a must! Please tell your guests to confirm their presence in advance. Of course, last minute cancellations and additions are obvious, but at least it gives you an approximate idea of people who are going to be attending the event. Pass on the exact number to the caterer or wedding planner, asking them to keep a slight buffer as well.
Use the leftover
This is one of the best ways to avoid food wastage. Tying up with an NGO to supply the leftover food while maintaining proper hygiene standards is something you can tell the caterer to do for you or approach one on your own.