Finish what’s on your plate. Wasting food is not just unintelligent, it’s also morally wrong. Especially when you consider that, in this country, there are children starving just a few streets away. While we worry about consuming too many calories, people die of malnutrition. And, so many of us spend enough on a single restaurant meal that can feed a family for a week.

Hence it’s was appropriate that chefs across the world came together to commemorate International Chef’s Day (on September 20) by helping the less-privileged. Initiated by the World Association of Cooks Societies (WACS), with eight million chefs from all 72 countries as members, the day provided chefs — all used to catering to the glamorous and powerful — a chance to cook for people who really needed, and truly appreciated, their food.

In Hong Kong, the chefs travelled in a convoy of coaches and delivery lorries to the Hong Chi Pinehill Advance Training Centre in Tai Po, New Territories, to serve 1,000 mentally and physically-challenged students. In Solheimar, a home for the disabled, 70 km from the Iceland capital Reykjavik, the chefs got together to prepare a lunch of salmon with risotto, organic vegetables and potatoes, ending with chocolate cake with vanilla and whipped cream. The Australian Culinary Federation (ACF) chefs teamed up with cookery students to create, cook and serve the world’s longest galantine (a French dish of stuffed meat) to raise funds for a local charity, ACT Eden Monaro Cancer Support Group. And, in New York, 150 of the world’s top chefs got together to raise money for Action Against Hunger, which helps malnourished children in 40 countries. Indian chefs, meanwhile, have been equally active. At a recent meeting of the South India Culinary Association (SICA), the chefs spoke about an important focus of their organisation (which is a part of the Indian Federation of Culinary Associations or IFCA) — to contribute to society in whichever way they can. The most obvious, of course, is by cooking — hence programmes such as ‘Chef Amudhupadai’ in which members of the IFCA Southern Region visited an orphanage where they prepared gourmet meals and served them to the children for a year. All the leading hotels participated in this initiative.

This year, they decided to focus on working towards minimising food wastage. Which brings us back to what’s on your plate after you finish a meal.

Dr. Pasupathy, from the Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, spoke about how 320 million people in India go to bed without food every night, and yet there is a 43 per cent global loss of food every year. He added that 21 per cent of the world’s malnourished children are in India, while sub-Saharan Africa has 22 per cent. With figures like that we should think seriously about every spoonful of food we waste.

Yet, as cooking processes become more mechanical, restaurants and hotels are finding that they are wasting far more food than they should. Chef Sounderajan, General Secretary of IFCA, says the same thing is happening in homes. “About 30 years ago, very few homes had refrigerators,” he stated, “We would buy provisions in the morning and cook it. The balance we would give to others.”

For restaurants, the chefs say that the best way to avoid wastage is by ensuring that food is stored well and all restaurant and hotel processes are well planned.

What can you do? Get inspired by the chefs and share your talents to help the underprivileged. Remember small changes can make a big difference to someone else’s life: for instance, if you don’t want a part of your airline meal leave it unopened instead of just taking a spoon of everything on your tray. This way the unopened items can be given to charity.

And remember what your parents told you: don’t waste food. You have the privilege of being able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Many people don’t.