(Newser) – With the pandemic going strong, after flooding ruined farms and tons of produce across the southern part of the nation, China has intensified its efforts against food waste. China must “maintain a sense of crisis about food security,” President Xi Jinping said. The “Clean Plate Campaign” is to intended to decrease the waste that Xi called “shocking and distressing,” the BBC reports. A catering association called on restaurants in Wuhan to follow a system it called “N-1,” in which a group is limited to one fewer dish than the number of its members. That struck online critics as unworkable. “What if one person goes to a restaurant alone?” a post read. “How many dishes can he order? Zero?” Media reports have said China might on track for a food crisis; a state newspaper disputed that. Waste is the biggest threat to the nation’s food security, per the Global Times.
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“Operation Empty Plate” was begun in 2013, mostly aimed at the over-the-top feasts that officials regularly enjoy. Another influence are the popular livestreams of diners gorging on large meals, often vomiting afterward. Obesity is an issue, too; China now has more obese people than the US. A 2018 report found that China wastes enough food every year to feed 30 million to 50 million people, per China Daily. Shanghai enacted regulations last year requiring the proper recycling of food waste by people and companies. Other cities followed suit. Xi efforts, begun in 2012 when he assumed power, had some success, per India’s National Herald. But there’s been slippage; an empty plate at gatherings is still sometimes seen as an indication of a bad host. This time, Xi is tying the campaign to a need to help other countries, as well, struggling during the pandemic. (Read more food waste stories.)