A volunteer for the Blessing to Share programme distributes leftovers from a wedding in a slum area in Jakarta (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

 

JAKARTA: In the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia’s poor are getting a taste of how the other half live thanks to a new programme that aims to take a bite out of its mammoth food-waste problem.

Called a Blessing to Share, the service supplies leftover wedding dishes to some of the poorest members of society in the sprawling capital.

Even as it struggles with poverty and malnutrition, the Southeast Asian nation bins more edible food per person than any other country except Saudi Arabia, according to an Economist Intelligence Unit survey last year.

Indonesia’s 260 million citizens each throw out an average of almost 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of food annually, ahead of the United States in third spot, the survey said.

The country’s food waste problem can be partly chalked up to local hospitality, which calls for ample helpings at all celebrations.

Hosts often err on the side of abundance, and many hungry revellers’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs — meaning lots of uneaten food.

Globally, about 30 percent of food produced every year is tossed out or spoiled — about 1.3 billion tonnes — which translates into some $1 trillion in economic costs, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Association.

That’s where a Blessing To Share comes in.

“There are lots of weddings in Indonesia and lots of extra food,” said programme founder Astrid Paramita.

“And there are lots of hungry people unfortunately, so this programme is trying to close that gap between the rich and needy.”

So far the programme is fairly limited, but Parmita has big plans and hopes to expand to other cities and also start sourcing edibles from company meetings and conferences.

Since starting in November, about 50 weddings have participated in the programme with about 1.6 tons of food collected for distribution through a local food bank.

For 60-year-old scavenger Efendi, getting a meal from one couple’s lavish nuptials across town was a welcome surprise.

“I didn’t expect this — suddenly I’m getting free food,” he said. – AFP

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