Clean Your Plate, Because…You’re in China

Many of us grew up hearing the admonition, ‘Clean your plate, because there are children starving in China.’ Well, it turns out Chinese kids heard (and some experienced) similar things.

That’s one of the many fascinating anecdotes reported in The World‘s fascinating piece on food waste in China. As part of the What’s For Lunch? series, The World focused on Chinese food waste and the fledgling Clean Your Plate campaign.

image courtesy of UNEPThere’s increased attention on food waste in China these days, and for good reason–it’s on the rise. Food comprises a staggering 70 percent of the country’s garbage. By comparison, the US figure is about 20 percent.

That burgeoning Chinese waste is partly driven by a reaction against the great famine that killed 40 million in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Excessive ordering and leaving food behind at restaurants are key examples of culturally-driven food waste. Gluttonous banquets with numerous courses are also to blame.

The organizers of the Clean Your Plate campaign launched their initiative in response to this problem. They have distributed leaflets and posters to more than 1,000 restaurants, and it’s good timing–the new Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has taken on food waste and declared an end to lavish  banquets for party officials.

Best of all, the idea seems to be working: The story says there are more restaurants offer smaller portions, doggie bags and certificates for clean plates. And, in a heart-warming bit of global logic, a random table of diners sitting near the reporter during the interview cleaned their plates because… “Why waste food?”

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