By Michael Evans
Shocking statistics on the amount of food wasted in China have sparked a nationwide movement to eat more and order less. While the study by researchers at China Agricultural University was released in April of last year, it has received widespread attention in the past two weeks on the heels of the Party’s new austerity campaign.
While the CCP’s push against extravagance has focused on luxury consumption by top officials, the study found that the rich and powerful are not alone in their wasteful habits. One-third of all food served in Beijing’s university dining halls is thrown out uneaten, enough to feed 10 million people for a year, it reported.
Beginning in mid-January, microbloggers began calling on their fellow Chinese to join “Operation Empty Plate,” a catchphrase forwarded nearly 5,000 times by the end of the month, according to the People’s Daily. The Party’s newspaper of record gave its official seal of approval to the movement on January 25, with two front page articles calling for less wasted food.
Millionaire philanthropist and publicity hound Chen Guangbiao jumped on the empty plate bandwagon the same day, swooping into a Nanjing restaurant with 40 members of his staff and eating leftovers from departed diners’ tables. Meanwhile, restaurants across the country have put out signs calling for patrons not to order more than they can eat, while others have put smaller portions on their menus.
Others are calling for the government to take concrete steps to fight food waste. Agricultural scientist Yuan Longping has proposed laws criminalizing waste, with fines levied against offenders. Beijing’s city government says that it will implement a trial program of charging residents trash collection fees based on how much food they throw out, the Want China Times reported last week.
China is not alone in its gargantuan amounts of wasted food, according to a January report by the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers. All in all, as much as half of all the world’s food never even reaches consumers, the report claimed.