Look: How tonnes of surplus food are recycled daily under UAE's 1 Million Saved Meals Ramadan drive

Extra products are repurposed into baskets and distributed to the needy in the country


Sherouk Zakaria

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KT Photo and Videos/Shihab
KT Photo and Videos/Shihab

Published: Thu 21 Apr 2022, 11:28 PM

Last updated: Thu 21 Apr 2022, 11:36 PM

Inside the cold warehouse of Al Bakrawe General Trading in Ras Al Khor Vegetable and Fruits market, employees are packing surplus fresh produce into large baskets to be distributed to the underprivileged across the UAE.

Stacked in large boxes are newly arrived green vegetables, potatoes, and a large variety of fruits including pineapples, avocadoes, berries, oranges, apples, pears and bananas.

After quality inspections upon the shipment’s arrival, a majority of the fresh produce are stored in freezers to be supplied to supermarkets and hypermarkets across Dubai.

The extra products are repurposed into baskets and distributed to labourers and low-income families across the country, as part of ‘1 Million Saved Meals’ Ramadan drive launched by the UAE Food Bank under the broader umbrella of ‘1 Billion Meals’ campaign.

“We have 10 tonnes of surplus fruits and vegetables daily that would go to waste if not consumed on the same day. It is our responsibility to ensure these supplies are reaching those who need it most,” Omran Al Bakri, Sales Manager at Al Bakrawe General Trading LLC, told Khaleej Times on a tour inside the warehouse.

The company is one of 200 strategic partners in the campaign, which is witnessing food establishments, factories, hotels and supermarkets donate the unused food to the UAE Food Bank for distribution to the needy.

KT Photo/Shihab
KT Photo/Shihab

The food is distributed in the form of hot cooked meals collected from hotels or parcels of food supplies donated by supermarkets, food establishments or factories.

The fruit and vegetable baskets are distributed with the food parcels - also known as grocery kits - in labour camps and underserved communities, said Dr Issam Sharaf Al Hashmi, head of Food Trade Control Section at Dubai Municipality.

He added that one grocery kit contains enough food supplies to prepare 80 nutritious meals. Since the launch of the campaign last week, 800,000 meals have been secured from grocery kits, which make up 80 per cent of the food distributed.

In addition, 6,000 meals have been cooked in 'Conscious Kitchens', in partnership with the food bank's partnering catering companies, from donated items of factories and establishments, noted Al Hashmi.

Tight inspections

The UAE Food Bank branches in Dubai, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah receive the donated food from nearby establishments and partners.

The food is then inspected in the bank's warehouses to ensure it meets the safety requirements. “Sometimes we take a sample and send it to the Dubai Central Laboratory for testing,” said Al Hashmi.

KT Photo/Shihab
KT Photo/Shihab

Meals and food parcels are then distributed to beneficiaries through charity organizations and government entities. “Dubai Police, for example, help us reach labour camp,” Al Hashmi noted.

The distribution depends on the shelf life of food items. Dairy products, fresh fruits, vegetables and bread are distributed on the same day, while canned and packaged supplies are delivered within 2-3 days.

While the UAE Food Bank operates all year long, Al Hashmi said efforts are intensified in Ramadan to implement the goals of the massive ‘1 Billion Meals’ campaign in ensuring no one sleeps hungry.

Since its launch one week ago, the '1 Million Saved Meals' campaign has secured 1.3 million meals, exceeding its target by 133 per cent.

Al Hashmi said two million meals are expected to be secured by the end of Ramadan.

KT Photo/Shihab
KT Photo/Shihab

“None of this would have happened without our collaboration with the private sector, which have played an integral role in achieving our goals of beating hunger and reducing food waste,” said Al Hashmi.

Last year, the UAE Food Bank distributed over 16 tonnes of meals across the UAE and launched its collaboration with the Emirates Red Crescent to provide meals for disadvantaged communities in Philippines, Senegal, and crisis-stricken countries.

An average of 13-15 tonnes of food are provided every year by the UAE Food Bank.



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