According to the World Food Program, one out of nine people living on the planet does not have enough food to lead a healthy and active life.
That’s approximately 795 million people. Given the desensitisation we face in today’s world to such huge numbers, it’s better to put that statement in simpler terms. There is enough food produced in the world today to end world hunger.
We, as a planet and a race, produce enough food that nobody in the whole world should have to go to bed hungry, yet every day, they do. And it doesn’t end there. About 9 million people in the world die every year due to starvation and malnutrition.
So why are people dying every year due to a lack of food when there is enough to feed everyone? Well, the answer to that question is fairly simple: Mismanagement.
The food that is produced every year is really poorly managed and distributed. This is to be expected in a capitalist open market, which is what most of the world is now. Given the sorry states the countries that have tried out socialism and communism are in, it’s more than fair to say that no government system currently in place can solve this issue. It seems that we are stuck with this problem.
Be that as it may, things are being done to fix the hunger problem. Big corporations and governments all over the world are taking action against hunger, and the UN is playing its part. Bangladesh isn’t far behind either.
Far fewer people starve in Bangladesh today compared to the 1980s, even with the population increase. But sometimes, actions and numbers mean very little compared to attitudes and social behaviours. This is because real change doesn’t come from actions and statistics, it comes from societal and behavioural shifts over time. The issue I’m trying to bring into focus today is the recent trend in Dhaka restaurants offering eating challenges.
In reality, these offers are neither recent nor new. This “all you can eat” buffet and “food challenge” culture is popular in the West, particularly in the US. Unlimited pizzas and bottomless drink offers have been around in Dhaka for quite a while now, and have gained more and more traction each Ramadan.
So why are people dying every year due to a lack of food when there is enough to feed everyone? Well, the answer to that question is fairly simple: Mismanagement
Similarly, the buffet culture is also not a new concept. Recently, there have been a few eateries which have been offering timed challenges and spiciness challenges promising rewards like more free food or the patron’s name on a hall of fame board.
The idea of setting parameters like time and the degree of heat in the food and then proceeding to consume it hurriedly in order to win vague and unimportant prizes that only benefit the business model is frankly upsetting.
And that’s before accounting for the amount of perfectly good food that goes to waste when the “challenger” fails to finish the challenge in time.
When it comes to the unlimited pizza challenges, a common practice is to “skin” the pizza -- meaning that the entirety of the dough is left untouched, which is also a massive waste of food.
This scenario is bad enough, but the role of social media makes it worse.
Videos of someone gloating after they’ve completed one of these timed “challenges,” or “smashed” an incredible number of pizza slices really reduces them as people, whether they realise it or not.
Now, I’m not suggesting that getting rid of these practices will solve hunger issues at any level, because it won’t. The point I’m trying to make is, in order to solve huge problems like hunger, people need to be respectful of the victims who are suffering. We are in dire need of some empathy regarding this issue.
These challenges are very disrespectful towards the hungry. It’s inconsiderate to say the least. Some people are quite literally playing with their food while others are starving. It’s not like the wasted food would go to the hungry anyway, but the attitude and respect need to be present to create change.
Hopefully, a shift in attitudes towards food and hunger will usher in a new era where food is distributed much more evenly.
While it is too early to start experimenting with “pay it forward” or “hanging” (an idea where a patron pays extra for their food so that someone in need can avail a meal later) in Dhaka, we can surely hope that the considerate and generous people who always lend a hand to those in need during natural disasters will change their attitudes towards food in order to fight hunger in their country, and all over the world.
Nibir Mostafa Khan is a content writer for BeLocal Today.