November 22, 2018 |
As I write this, I am on my way to India, and if I am honest, I am dreading the sight of poverty and homelessness that I will witness over the next few days. I have been to India a number of times and have never been able to deal with the sight of human beings, with as equal a right to exist on earth as myself, begging for the right to exist.
I remember many years ago being on a beach in Mumbai, being stitched up by a dice shark on a beach, and a small girl approached begging for money. The rest of the adults watching my humiliation at the deft hands of the conman either shooed her away or just ignored her. However she gave me a nice distraction from losing my money to this dude, and I can still remember her today, more than 20 years later. She was about 10, who knows where she is today. I had money, well what was left of it, and I knew that was what she wanted, but she wasn’t having it. What I did give her was the food I had just bought and some of the clothes in my rucksack. I thought this was a better solution than just money that may, or may not, benefit her directly. She was deliriously happy with eating and maybe not so with the clothes, but there was a lovely smile on her face. Whether that was knocked off by somebody later in the day when she came back with no cash and some student’s clothes I will never know. I will never know whether I did the right thing either.
When I was in Milan recently, I saw a number of homeless people around Milano Centrale – some locals who had run into hard times, some immigrants looking for a better life. Young, old, white, brown, black… all joined by one thing: No home, and as a consequence, no shelter, warmth or food. So we came up with a plan – not a great one but a plan anyway. Any food that we did not eat the night before or at breakfast, we packed up to go and gave to them. That was it, nothing else, no fuss… just a bit of food.
Globally, restaurants throw away 1.3 billion tonnes of food every year. It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to think that instead of scraping leftovers into a bin, we could turn these into meals to give to the homeless and hungry. In my opinion, every restaurant should have to do this, and if it doesn’t then it should have its licence taken away. Removing plastic from the supply chain is great, and yes, it will help the environment and marine life, but what about human life?
Note to potential restauranteurs, rather than spending thousands of dollars on a chandelier that makes no difference to the diner’s experience, why not spend that on eco-friendly take-away boxes that the homeless can collect at the end of the night?
The industry is lost in its own sense of self-importance and has lost sight of its purpose. A restaurant is a ‘restor-ant’, that is its purpose: to provide restorative sustenance to those who can afford it. But not everyone can afford it and those who can are blasé about being able to afford it. So why don’t we become a bit more democratic? Let’s use those vegetable peelings to make a broth, let’s keep the waste and package it properly, let’s feed those who can’t eat properly, and frankly, are more worried about making it through the night than whether the steak came from a cow that was massaged nightly by Jennifer Aniston.
How about it, can charity start in the kitchen?
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