When Twitter user Bhargav Ranjan from Chennai placed a food order on food delivery app, Swiggy, earlier this week, he was in for a surprise. The app showed his food being delivered not from a nearby place, instead, it showed the bike icon placed in Rajasthan, hundreds of kilometres away with an estimated time of delivery time of only 12 minutes! Ranjan shared a screenshot of the glitch, which is now part of fun memes.
We all connect with this hilarity since we all look at our phones when food is ordered online. We track it closely to figure out how far the delivery boy is at, (hopefully not lost in Rajasthan) and of course, to see if we could have ordered something more. It is tempting to be able to choose from a plethora of restaurants, menus, cuisines all there, and watch it move across the city to reach your doorstep.
For kids today, this is how we get food. They are growing up looking at screens, ordering vegetables, nuts and whole meals. Food is an icon moving on a screen. The idea that a packet of mushroom is actually a fungus, pumpkins grow on the ground, carrots, potatoes are yanked from the soil, beans grow among tendrils and vines, is yet to take hold for most kids. Rice, maize, corn, wheat is only seen in packets. The kids are watching us closely, and see how casual we are with food.
We throw away half-eaten meals, we order more than we need, there is no pause or remorse when food is junked. A handful of rice tossed in the dustbin, actually had a long journey before it went waste. It takes tonne of water, fertiliser, hard labour (planting, harvesting, thrashing, transport) and packaging it for the supermarkets before it lands in your kitchen. The backstory to their food is missing.
Imagine now, an app that monitored a patch of land, where updates on crop growth went to future customers. The water, the resources, time and energy taken to transport the food is calculated, and a price decided for you, the consumer.
You are also rated by suppliers on how much you eat or waste. In a dystopian future, if food resources are limited. Maybe as a family, you would be forced to monitor each and every food item you consume. But do we really need an app to feel grateful for our meals?
There is a better way to make kids aware of how food gets to our table -- a farm visit. Kids need to see a plant grow from seed. They have to see fruits hanging from a tree, the effort taken to plough a field or stand for hours in knee-deep mulch to plant rice saplings and better understand climate change and pollution, first hand. This is crucial for children to spend time in an open space surrounded by animals, clean air and feel involved.
Dr Sarah Hambidge, Postdoctoral Researcher, Bournemouth University who has studied children with behavioural difficulties, says kids exposed to farm life “display a significant reduction in self-reported mental health risks, improved social relationships and coping; improved life and work skills; and re-engagement with learning.”
Helping an adult to plant, water and gather on a farm gives kids a sense of purpose. A feeling of well-being. This is what no app can deliver. How about we take a break from just ordering food, and maybe once or twice a year make a trip to a local farm, pluck our own vegetables and fruits. The children will be truly appreciative of the adventure and zero screen time.
Sharon Fernandes is a journalist based in Delhi.