Food wastage in the UAE is a big problem. Food flows onto tables as quickly as it flows off the tables, especially at brunches and buffets; and during iftars and suhoors during Ramadan.
It is estimated that nearly 3.27 million tonnes of food produced and imported in the UAE is wasted every year. Globally, 1/3rd of the food produced for our consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — is lost or wasted. Food wastage amounts to roughly US$680 billion in developed countries, and US$310 billion in developing countries (!).
There are 795 million undernourished people in the world today. That means 1 in 9 people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Even if just 1/4th of the food wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people.
Although a large percentage of food wastage could be the result of imposed food safety regulations (for example, in some cities the municipality demands that restaurants must discard food if it has been cooked more than 2 hours ago), these numbers are just unacceptable.
We all need to take it upon us to do anything we can to reduce food waste. It could be as simple as ordering less at a restaurant; sending back the bread if we are not going to eat it (food on your table goes straight to the bin even if you have just touched it); taking food home; or not buying excessively at the supermarket (never go to a supermarket when you are hungry – we are all guilty of it!), there is really no excuse to not do these small things in our daily lives. More tips on reducing your food wastage at home can be found here.
If you want to go a bit beyond your home, participating in community initiatives to reduce food wastage is a great place to start. It has been amazing to see community initiatives in Dubai where people are working together to reduce food wastage, and making sure that extra food is to given to people who need it the most.
A beautiful initiative this Ramadan in Dubai is ‘Share a Fridge’ where you put a fridge outside your home and fill it with food for labourers to take when they need it, and encourage your neighbours to fill it as well! Run on Facebook, the group already has over 6200 members with fridges in over 30 locations all around the UAE.
If you are in the UAE and want to participate, you can:
Put a fridge outside your home and fill it with food: It needs to be plugged inside your home and must have a sign on it that permits people to take food from it. Water, fresh juices, soft drinks, fruits are the most encouraged food types. It seems like no external permissions are required.
Donate your extra food to a fridge near you: Think ahead and see if all your food will survive the week; if not, give it to a fridge near you. There are fridges in over 30 locations all over the UAE, you can find them here on Google maps or listed here.
Spread the word: Tell everyone you know! If you are not in Dubai, look for a community initiative near you (you will be amazed what you might find around you!), spread the word and participate!