Respecting food and reducing its waste starts with school lunches

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2009, 12:00am

In Hong Kong, 3,310 tonnes of food waste was generated every day in 2007, making up 35 per cent of the total municipal solid waste. This has increased pressure on our landfills.

According to a survey conducted by Greeners Action, 52 per cent of schools interviewed claimed that every student wastes 10 per cent to 30 per cent of a meal at lunch time. Every day this amounts to 10 tonnes of food wasted. It is alarming that our next generation does not have the right attitude towards food resources.

Nowadays children in Hong Kong are relatively fortunate. Few of them suffer from hunger and yet millions of people are starving in the world. Our students have a blase attitude. They often leave food in their lunchbox if it is not something they like and many develop bad eating habits. They hate vegetables and snack between meals. Primary school students are not being educated so they can develop the right attitude in this regard.

In order to tackle the food waste problem a 'Primary School Save Food Day' was held last month to educate students about the importance of treasuring food resources. More than 30,000 students participated and were encouraged to finish the whole meal on that day.

We hope through campaigns like this that youngsters can become aware of the food wastage problem. It is important that they change their eating habits and that they can help contribute towards a reduction in waste in Hong Kong.

Schools can help by co-operating with lunch box suppliers so that different portions are supplied for different forms. Another option would be to provide rice at the canteen so students can ask for only as much as they can eat.

The Education Bureau should take responsibility for getting the message across to students that they must treasure food resources. So far, it has failed to do this and it amounts to a major policy failure.

The bureau should also provide assistance and guidelines for schools on how to reduce food waste. It is important for Hong Kong that our young people grow up recognising the value of food and the adverse effect such waste has on our environment.

Angus Ho, executive director, Greeners Action