KT For Good: This Ramadan, let's work towards food waste reduction
The first part of our 14-day series gives you an overview of the food waste epidemic in the country and across the globe.
The holy month of Ramadan marks 30 days of fasting, introspection, prayer and celebration. Every day, after long hours of fasting, nothing in the world provides more satisfaction than the sight, smell and taste of a well-cooked meal, especially if made by a mother's hands.
Come Iftar, it is only natural for people to pile food on their plates.
For many, the holy month is also a season of abundance, thanks to lavish buffet-style Iftars courtesy of the hospitality industry. However, as the beginning of Ramadan approaches, it is imperative that we think about our relationship with food.
According to the 2018 Global Report on Food Crises by the World Food Programme (WFP), a subsidiary of the UN, an estimated 124 million people in 51 countries are currently facing a 'food insecurity crisis' or worse.
The WFP report illustrated, in stark terms, the hunger caused by more frequent and longer lasting conflicts and climate shocks that have increased both in their intensity and frequency over time. Along with the outbreaks of diseases and limited access to basic services, a bleak malnutrition situation has been created in many countries across the globe.
Food wastage epidemic in the region
Annual food waste is estimated at 427kg per person in Saudi Arabia and 197kg per person in the UAE, compared with 95kg to 115kg in Europe and North America, according to a research report released by Dubai Industrial Park and The Economist Intelligence Unit.
The region's limited ability to cultivate the crops required to meet local food demand has meant that it has been relying heavily on food imports from around the world. Approximately 60 to 90 per cent of food consumed in the GCC is imported.
"Hospitality and tourism are the biggest sources of food waste (in the region)," said Tara Fischbach, a research assistant at the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government.
In 2012, the Dubai Municipality estimated that during Ramadan, around 55 per cent of household waste - or approximately 1,850 tonnes - is thrown away every day. Municipality officials revealed the numbers have continued to climb ever since.
What is the solution?
The UAE Food Bank, under the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, is considered an integrated humanitarian system that deals with surplus fresh and canned food, and distributes them across the country in cooperation with a network of local and international food establishments and humanitarian organisations.
"The UAE Food Bank has collected and distributed around 4,500 tonnes of food since its inception. Since the beginning of 2018 until the fourth quarter, it received about 790 tonnes of various food items," said Dawoud Al Hajri, director-general of the Dubai Municipality and deputy chairman of the board of trustees of the UAE Food Bank.
The hospitality industry is also adopting sustainability changes to cut food waste. For example, Park Hyatt Dubai has pledged to cut food waste by two per cent by the end of 2019.
Saud Abu Al Shawareb, managing director of Dubai Industrial Park, said that with new technologies, Industry 4.0 helps increase efficiency and decrease wastage of food.
Over the course of the campaign, Khaleej Times will be speaking to experts from the government, international food experts, psychologists, nutritionists, personal shoppers, retailers, families and the biggest stakeholder in this effort - you. Join Khaleej Times in this food conservation drive during Ramadan. Let's #SaveFoodSaveLives.
KT tips and tricks for the #FoodSoldier in you
Throughout the course of our campaign, Khaleej Times will reveal three food conservation tips and tricks every day. Follow these to become the number one #FoodSoldier.
1 Shop smart and realistically
To avoid buying more food than you need, make frequent trips to the grocery store every few days rather than doing a bulk shopping trip once a week.
2 While serving food on a plate, serve small quantities
Making sure your portion sizes stay within a healthy range doesn't just help keep your weight down, it also reduces food waste.
3 Avoid clutter in your refrigerator and pantry
A good way to stock your fridge is by using the FIFO method, which stands for "first in, first out".