UAE Food Bank opens first branch in Dubai

Video by Sherouk Zakaria

It will contribute to giving surplus food to the needy.

Dubai Municipality officially opened the first location of the UAE Food Bank in Al Quoz on Wednesday morning.

Located just off Al Khail road, the bank contains a big refrigerated container where food donated by establishments is stored and through which charities collect these food items to distribute it to those in need.

Hussain Lootah, DG of Dubai Municipality, said the locations are selected depending on areas with communities of people in need. "We are looking to cater to areas next to laborer accommodations for example. We will then cooperation with municipalities across different emirates to spread the food bank across the country," he said.

Photo by Dhes Handumon/Khaleej Times

Lootah, who signed partnerships with 30 food establishments and charity organizations, noted that the first food donation mission will be directed to famine-hit Somalia in line with the government's relief operations. 

"Everything in today's containers- which had dry and packaged food from four hypermarkets- will be donated to our brothers and sisters to Somalia," he told the press on the sidelines of the launching event.

On its first phase, the location will store packaged and canned food given by food companies and establishments, while the second phase will focus on collecting fresh food from hotel banquets and restaurants.

Photo by Dhes Handumon/Khaleej Times

Lootah noted that 100 fridges, supervised by a trained volunteering team, will be distributed across Dubai mosques during Ramadan to enable residents to donate their surplus food under strict safety guidelines.

"A lot of canned food sadly goes to waste as it nears its expiry date. Having an initiative that collects the dry food doesn't only minimize our waste but also helps people in need," said Lootah.

Currently, one refrigerated truck is deployed to collect food items from nearby hypermarkets and establishments and store it in the location's container.

Noura Al Shamsi, Head of Permits and Applied Nutrition Section at DM, said a maximum of two trucks will be provided on each location to collect food from nearby establishments, with inspectors on sight to check if it follows safety guidelines.

In UAE's average households, 39 per cent of waste is food, and the ratio increases to 55 per cent (1,850 tonnes) during Ramadan, according to Dubai Municipality's estimates.

An estimated three million tonnes of food (Dh14 billion) is wasted annually in the UAE with an average of196Kg of food per person per year.

Announced in January, the UAE Food Bank aims to eliminate waste, making Dubai the first city in the Middle East to achieve zero waste through distributing surplus fresh and dry food to those in need at both the local and regional level.

The food bank is a supervised system, backed by partners that will supply, collect, supervise and distribute the food to those in need.

"We have the food establishments and companies who provide us with the surplus food, charity organizations who distribute the food and logistic partners who are in charge with storing the food in the right way," noted Lootah.

He added while the UAE Food Bank will direct its efforts to the local communities in need in Dubai then across UAE, authorities aim to expand it into a global initiative over the coming years to respond to foreign aid.

How it works

The food donation process will be regulated via an app. Abd El Rahim Gador, Principal food health inspection officer at DM, told Khaleej Times food companies will state the items up for donation and their location through the app.

Trucks will then be deployed to gather the food to location, where two inspectors on site check the food items and mark them as received on the app.

Charity organizations then reserve the food items available before picking it up.

Charities will mark food items distributed to the needy.

UAE food bank to provide foreign aid

Mohammed Al Zarooni, head of Emirates Red Crescent- a strategic partner in UAE Food Bank- said the entity will work on distributing the food received from the bank locally and regionally.

"We will also collaborate with farms and bug companies where dry food like rice and wheat could be supplied to countries who need it," said Al Zarooni.

He added while UAE has large amounts of food waste, dedicating the surplus food under a supervised system to the country's one million laborer, for example, will make the country's resource management more efficient.

Al Zarooni said that the key is to raise a future generation capable of saving food resources. "It's all about changing mentalities. Change people's mentality and everything else will follow," he said.

Source: Khaleej Times, Sherouk Zakaria