Forgetting About Food
When food supply is limited and taken for granted, does Singapore deserve the label ‘food paradise’?
SEEING the way children treat food these days worry commercial photographer Wayne Umehara.
His nephews and nieces run around during mealtimes, and maids chase after and cajole them to finish their food. When he visits restaurants, he realises that his family is not an isolated case.
“You don’t take for granted what food means,” says Mr Umehara who is in his 50s. “I was an orphan and I know what it’s like to be starving.”
Mr Umehara’s sentiments are a reflection of a looming problem being faced today – people in developed nations are forgetting the value and concept of food.
According to food waste researcher and American journalist Jonathan Bloom, 33, this is because food is cheap and easily available in these countries and people spend a lesser portion of their income on it. “That’s the main culprit in that it makes us value food less,” says Mr Bloom in an email interview.
A developed nation also no longer sees how farmers toil to produce every grain of rice.“We have forgotten that we get our food and resources from nature,” says Eugene Tay, 32, editor of website Zero Waste Singapore. “People today no longer understand the whole food chain – from growing to transporting to eating to disposing.”
With wet markets fizzling out and supermarkets taking over in Singapore, children especially are losing touch from seeing raw and uncut versions of food.
“Some children think chickens have six legs!” says Leo Lim, 42, managing director of food factory Universal Food Inc., referring to how chicken thighs and drumsticks are usually presented in packs of six in supermarkets.
“Civilisation allows people to become progressively separated and disconnected from the origins and systems that provide their food supply,” explains Albert McGill, visiting professor at the National University of Singapore’s Food Science and Technology Programme.
When Dr McGill, who is in his 60s, was teaching in the UK and in South Africa, he took students to meat processing plants to study the process of food manufacturing from animal kill to final packaging.
He would carry out the tour backwards, starting from the final packaged products. Students were permitted to leave halfway during the visit if they found the sights uncomfortable. On average, only 10 per cent made it to the slaughter point.