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Meet waste champion Banu Sidharth

Published: 30 November 2016

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Meet waste champion Banu Sidharth

Food waste is a massive issue in New Zealand. This is particularly true in Auckland where our wastage is higher than the national average. The average family in Auckland is wasting $574 worth of food a year – that’s equivalent to about three supermarket trolleys full of food.

In this series, we look at the attitude to food and the approach to preventing waste in different cultures.

Banu Sidharth, founder and owner of Banu’s Cooking Class, has taught hundreds of New Zealanders to appreciate and respect food.

Banu says she learnt from the best. He father was the top South Indian catering contractor in New Delhi for 51 years, while her mother was the backbone of the family, managing a busy household of five children. It was through them that she learnt about the value of food.

“After a big wedding there would be more leftovers than you could possibly know what to do with. My father would load the food onto a hired cart and take it to the slums to feed the poor. There is a belief that when your stomach is full you say nicer things and it’s easier to bless others.

"I strongly believe that my father’s redistribution of the food bought him success from the blessings of those he fed.”

Banu says that in traditional Indian culture, food is believed to be the embodiment of Annapoorna – the Hindu goddess of food, energy and nourishment.

“Food is sacred and we’re taught to respect it. Wasting food is a sign of disrespecting Annapoorna and an insult both to the goddess and to the person who prepared it.”

There is also the belief that every morsel of food has the name of the eater written on it.

“My students understand that the food they eat is meant for them. That connection to your food is precious; it brings health and allows you to flourish.”

Migrating to a new country also plays a major part in the way food is viewed, says Banu.

“We come to New Zealand with very little and have to work hard to build prosperity. That attitude means you don’t take things for granted and value all that you have – and food is no exception.”