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UAE Food Bank receives 25 tonnes of food in two months

Filed on June 22, 2017 | Last updated on June 23, 2017 at 03.58 pm
UAE Food Bank receives 25 tonnes of food in two months
Dr Abdullah Badarani at the first UAE Food Bank in Al Quoz, Dubai, on Tuesday.

(Photo by Dhes Handumon)

Donated food reaches at least 300 people in need on a daily basis, says official

During Ramadan, hundreds of low-income families and labourers benefitted from surplus food donated by supermarkets and hotels through the first location of the UAE Food Bank.

Since its launch back in April, the bank has received 25 tonnes of canned food, bakeries, fruits, juice, chickpeas and jam from six major hypermarkets and food establishments including Spinneys, Choithrams and Lulu.

Located just off Al Khail Road in Al Quoz, the two large refrigerated containers receive an average of 18 boxes a day, each packed with 15kg of packaged and canned food.

A typical day at the food bank

At about 11.30am, Mohammed Ali from Tarahum Charity Foundation arrives at the first UAE Food Bank in Al Quoz in a small van. He fills it with about 10 boxes of fresh bread, rice, chickpeas, jam and juices to be distributed in a labour accommodation in Muhaisna.

"They come back from work by 12pm and will find their lunch ready," says Ali, who comes to the bank almost every day to collect donated items. Tarahum has so far distributed 1,128 boxes of 15kg each to low income families, widows and labourers.

"The food can remain safe for about three to four days and can feed up to 400 people," he said.

Donate your surplus food

As part of the UAE Food Bank initiative, the Dubai Municipality distributed 80 fridges across mosques during Ramadan to allow communities to donate their surplus food. Supervised by volunteers and mosque managers who attended food safety training sessions, the fridges are monitored by municipality inspectors who ensure hygiene practices are followed.

Fridges are available for communities to donate their food for the rest of the year to reduce organic waste that amounts to an average of 196kg per person annually.

Safety instructions are posted on the fridge in Arabic and English. Residents are not allowed to donate raw or expired food. Ready to eat food must be packed in clean and closed designated containers.

Abdullah Badarani, senior food safety officer at Dubai Municipality, who supervises the site, told Khaleej Times that donated food reaches at least 300 people in need on a daily basis.

The UAE Food Bank, which was announced in January, aims to provide food for the less fortunate while reducing food wastage that is estimated to cost the UAE about Dh13 billion a year.

Twenty-nine other food banks are scheduled to open across the UAE, with 15 to be launched by the end of 2017. A location will be opened at Al Awir Fruit and Vegetables market, and another one in Al Muhaisnah by the end of next month.

Badarani noted that the bank receives hypermarkets' canned food that is nearing their expiry date as customers tend to shy away from buying them. Fresh bakeries are distributed on the same day.

"Food nearing its expiry date or experiencing slight damage or fold in its sticker or package tend to be disposed although they are still safe to use," said Badarani. "Instead of wasting it, we contact charity associations which can give it to those in need."

The municipality has partnered with a logistics company that sends a supervised truck to collect the produce from an interested food establishment or hotel and delivers it to the bank.

Once food items arrive, they are inspected by Badarani and another colleague who takes the night shift depending on the amount of the food.

"We don't accept any food that comes in. We check its safety, packaging and expiration dates, which differ depending on type of food," said Badarani.

After safely storing and stocking the food in boxes, Badarani then contacts charity associations to pick up the food items and distribute it to the needy. He noted that food is accepted only from authorised hotels and food establishments.

"The key behind the bank is to provide a safe process of donation under the government's supervision to ensure that no items are polluted or damaged on the way to the needy," said Badarani.

The municipality has currently partnered with 20 hotels and hypermarkets and 10 charity associations.

UAE Food Bank receives 25 tonnes of food in two months (KT12165622.PNG)

How donated food reaches the needy

Abdullah Badarani, senior food safety officer at Dubai Municipality, who supervises UAE Food Bank in Al Quoz, said charity associations donate food to different areas and segments around Dubai.

During the first month, the municipality supervised the distribution process of every charity organisation to ensure safe transfer and wide food outreach to different areas.

Colette Shannon, communications manager at Spinneys that donated about 800 boxes from its Umm Sequim branch, said goods in edible condition but expiring that day - such as bread - are given to the bank.

"If we reject fruits that may not meet our quality standards for size or colour - or might have blemishes - we donate them direct from the warehouse," said Shannon.

The Dubai World Trade Centre, a partner of the food bank, donates about 40kg of food per day directly to the Royati Society that delivered surplus food to workers in nearby labour accommodations.

Main course items, especially hot food items like biryani, ouzi, kebabs, harees and rice were donated under the supervision of their food hygiene officer. Mohammed Al Jumairi, vice-president, event operations at the centre, said the process of donating hot food through the bank will start after Ramadan.

Hot food will be transported to charity organisations, though the bank, in under 24 hours.



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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