Eat Less, Avoid Food Waste
Food is a gift from Allah to all of His creatures. The diversity of nature and food resources are bestowed on humans so that they can be used wisely, grown, cultivated and benefited for subsistence and sustenance. While food should be enjoyed, it should not be taken in excess. In Islam, everyone is responsible to find solution if there is any leftover or surplus of food. Nevertheless, good planning in food preparation is the utmost importance in preventing food wastage.
Food wastage has been shown to be an increasing trend during the fasting month of Ramadan and festive seasons in Malaysia by 15 to 20 per cent. With the upcoming Ramadan, Muslims should learn to prioritise spending their resources especially on food, energy and time so that they may achieve the maximum reward for their good deeds. Ramadan is an opportunity to put a stop to bad habits that affect our health and adopt healthier diets. Allah has commanded that every Muslim to not waste any food and use sources as wisely as possible. Being excessive or extravagant in food consumption is contrary to the principles of Islam. In fact, Allah has enjoined man to eat only what he needs in moderate quantities without excess, and maintain balance in food consumption. In the Quran, Allah proclaims: “Eat of the good things We have provided for your sustenance, but commit no excess therein, lest My Wrath should justly descend on you: and those on whom descends My Wrath do perish indeed.”[Taha, 20: 81].
Nutritious and balanced food are needed for survival and wellness. Therefore, a balanced diet alone is not sufficient. We also need to keep the quantity of food consumed adequately. Such practices should be observed especially during fasting in Ramadan so as to maintain good health. Food intake must be moderate since any excessiveness will harm the body and contribute to the increasing of food waste. Balance in all forms of action is the foundation of the Islamic life style whereas over consumption will only disturb and spoil the balance.
Islam prohibits the habits of wasting food and being extravagant in eating and drinking, as well as others that are basically permissible. In food consumption during Ramadan, everyone must eat well, but only as much as we need to maintain good physical health, energy, and stamina to do good deeds and acts of worship. Food intake should be simple and not differ too much from the normal diet. As such, when preparing food for iftar, extravagance should be avoided such as in the number of different dishes to be served. Any leftover of food should be refrigerated or preserved in suitable temperature for later consumption, or given to those in need. During Ramadan, Muslims are recommended to be generous. In food consumption, we can cook for the needy, give away the food to them or invite them for iftar. This way, any form of food waste can be avoided. The remaining untouched food should never be thrown away into the trash or allowed to rot. Throwing surplus food away is also considered as extravagant which Allah SWT has forbidden. Prophet Muhammad SAW did not waste food. It was narrated that Anas RA had said, “The Prophet SAW liked to eat the remains, i.e. the remains of food and he used to say, ‘You don’t know in which part of your food the blessing lies.’”
Moreover, eating food in portions appropriate for activity level is recommended by the Ministry of Health Malaysia. The Healthy Plate Malaysia concept has been initiated by the Ministry to promote and guide a balanced diet of proper proportions of meal through the ‘Suku Suku Separuh’ (Quarter Quarter Half) campaign. The campaign recommends that a plate is divided into portions of a quarter for meat and fish, another quarter for grains and nuts and half for fruits and vegetables. This reflects the moderation and balanced meal in daily food intake. With larger portions, people tend to eat and waste more. Hence, reducing portion size is a key to waste reduction strategy.
Being moderate and consuming healthy food are fundamental in reducing food waste. As Muslims, we need to be more mindful in refraining from over-consuming food and piling up our plates especially during Ramadan buffets. Improving cooking skills and providing recipes for leftovers and guidance on portions are other ways to enhance nutritional health while reducing food waste.
Indeed, efforts are increasing to prevent and reduce food waste. Ramadan could positively influence consumer behaviours regarding food. Since any kind of waste and extravagance are condemned in Islamic teaching, therefore it is essential to instil Islamic values in the awareness of reducing food waste among Muslims.