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China Daily Website

World Food Day fasting highlights hunger and waste

Updated: 2012-10-16 00:08
By HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu ( China Daily)

Shu Gang, chief of the Chengdu administration of grain in Sichuan province, will not eat anything for 24 hours on Tuesday to observe the 32nd World Food Day.

"Several district grain administration chiefs in Chengdu have promised to join me in response to the call made by the State Administration of Grain," he said.

On Friday, the State administration posted a notice on its official website asking employees in the country's food industry to experience hunger for 24 hours on a voluntary basis.

"It is aimed at arousing public awareness to treasure food and prevent waste," the posting said.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has designated Oct 16 World Food Day since 1981.

Many netizens cast doubt on the effectiveness of the one-day fast.

But Yang Pu, a commentator with, a media portal in Hubei province, applauded Shu's gesture.

"There have been car-free days and events such as turning off the lights for one hour in parts of the country. Like one-day fasting, they serve as a wake-up call in the face of impending danger," he said.

According to Chen Xiwen, director of the Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee's Leading Group on Rural Work, China imported over 60 billion kg of grain last year.

Figures released by the General Administration of Customs in July showed that the country imported nearly 41 billion kg of grain in the first half of this year, up 41.2 percent over the same period last year.

Paradoxically, alongside the food shortage there is alarming waste.

According to a report by China Central Television, the country's catering industry alone wastes food that could feed 200 million people a year.

Feng Shibo, who has worked as a cleaner in Beijing for more than six years, often finds uneaten bread, sandwiches, snacks, fish, meat and even sacks of rice in rubbish dumps.

According to an investigation conducted at universities in Beijing, one-third of the food that students purchase in canteens is thrown away, said Wu Weihua, professor of biology at China Agricultural University.

Each year, students throw away enough food to feed about 10 million people, the investigation showed.

Shu said: "Many young people have no sense of starvation. Fasting can awaken people's memory of it."

Known as the "land of abundance" since ancient times, the Chengdu Plain has been a major farming area in the country. But with accelerated urbanization and population growth, grain demand lags behind production in Chengdu.

In 2017, the city will consume 8 million tons of grain. Nearly 70 percent will come from other parts of China, compared with 50 percent now, Shu said.