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UAE Food Bank crosses borders to feed poor.

Summary: The food bank will expand its business of giving to 30 countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Sherouk Zakaria

(KT file)

The UAE Food Bank will supply food to the needy people across 30 countries in the region, thanks to a new partnership officials signed on Wednesday. Launched to donate surplus food from supermarkets, restaurants and hotels to low-income families across the country, the food bank will expand its business of giving to 30 countries in the Middle East and Africa. On Wednesday, the Dubai Municipality officials signed a partnership with the Food Banking Regional Network (FBRN) to donate the country's surplus packaged, canned and cooked food from hotels and supermarkets to the network's 33 banks in the Middle East and Africa.

Food bank sites in Dubai

> Al Quoz and Al Bada area > One more site will open in Al Muhaisnah in two months

Dawood Al Hajeri, director-general of the Dubai Municipality, said while the UAE Food Bank's first phase looked at distributing food across the country, it is time to expand regionally and internationally with aims to reduce food waste and beat world hunger. "The bank is our leadership's humanitarian initiative to feed people in need in the country and abroad. Part of our strategy is to make the food bank an international initiative," said Al Hajeri. Locally, the food bank succeeded in distributing 615 tonnes of food to workers and families across the country since its launch in April 2017.

One-third of food produced in the world every year, estimated at 1.3 billion tonnes, gets wasted. Dr Moez El Shohdi, CEO and founder of the FBRN, said the food donated in the UAE will be directed to the countries in dire need. "Currently, there's so much need for food in Jordan and Lebanon, particularly for the Syrian refugees residing in camps. Yemen's civilians also require food due to the ongoing crisis the country is facing," said El Shohdi. Founded in 2006 to tackle food security in Egypt, the network has succeeded in feeding over 12 million people in need and saving over 20 million meals a month in Egypt. Based on United Nations recommendation, the food bank model in Egypt was replicated in the region to achieve UN Millennium Development Goals. "Our model feeds people in need who are unable to work and educates and develops those in need who are able to work. We organise our work to achieve sustainable philanthropy, not just charity," said El Shohdi. He said through the partnership, he expects to save "more food" in the UAE than the network did in Egypt. "There's a lot of food going waste in the world. Since the network and the UAE Food Bank have similar goals and ways of work, we will definitely be able to save more food," he said. With food waste making up 55 per cent of rubbish in Dubai according to 2014 reports, the city aims to be the first in the region to achieve zero food waste. The government plans to recycle 75 per cent of food waste by 2021.

Meeting to discuss food shipment process

The municipality will hold a meeting with the network's officials to address the distribution of food abroad. "We've set up a manual in handling the food, especially the cooked food donated from hotels that get approved by local authorities," said El Shohdi. Khalid Mohammad Sherif Al Awadhi, assistant director-general for environment, health and safety control sector at the municipality, said the civic body will monitor the collected food's inspection, storage and shipment. "After inspections, the donated cooked food will either be frozen or vacuum-sealed - depending on the quantity and type of food - before it is shipped abroad to enable receivers to eat it fresh," said Al Awadhi. He added that charity organisations will cover the distribution process. "There's no high numbers of poverty in the UAE so we still have surplus food remaining. With big numbers of weddings and parties, we see a lot of food coming from hotels. Our main aim from the food bank is to reduce this organic waste," said Al Awadhi. He noted that in the next five years, hotels across the UAE are expected to reduce their food waste. There are currently two food bank sites open in Dubai's Al Quoz and Al Bada area next to Canadian University in Dubai. Al Awadhi said the next branch will be launched within the next two months in Al Muhaisnah. The UAE Food Bank has expanded its reach in Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman to distribute meals to low-income families and workers. The Dubai Municipality is currently in talks to expand the bank's outreach to the rest of the emirates. The food bank currently helps collect surplus packaged or canned food from supermarkets, stores it before handing it charity associations for distribution among the less fortunate. The civic body is currently establishing a framework to distribute ready-to-eat food from hotels and restaurants through charity associations, who currently contact food establishments and handle the distribution on their own.

KT nano edit: Inspiring move

Plenty of food is produced in our world. Over 7.2 billion population can have at least two meals a day, yet millions go to bed on an empty stomach. Improper storage and handling, and disregard to stock inventory lead to huge wastage. Almost a third of what is produced goes to landfills. The UAE's decision to share extra food with other nations should inspire others.

Sherouk Zakaria "Born and raised in UAE, Sherouk Zakaria is a Senior Correspondent at Khaleej Times. Joined since May 2016, she covers Dubai Municipality, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), special events and humanitarian issues. Her choice of journalism as a career stems from her passion of telling people's stories and writing to inspire or make a difference. In her free time, she's an occasional theater and film actress. Sherouk received her BA in Mass Communications from the American University in Sharjah in 2013. Before joining Khaleej Times, she was a senior lifestyle/entertainment editor for a magazine in Dubai."

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Sep 5, 2018
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