Egypt is getting serious about food waste. Last year we reported on the extraordinary amount of food wasted during Ramadan. Ironically, at the same time that ritual scraps filled up formal and informal landfills, the Middle East experienced record-high food prices that some analysts saw as the catalyst of citizen fury that has torn through the region. But throwing away perfectly good food is neither limited to holidays nor to the Middle East.
In a recent story, Almasry Alyoum pointed out that hotels and restaurants are the biggest generators of food waste. Poor controls and the difficulty of predicting how many people will walk into a given establishment on any given day result in tons of food being thrown away every day.
This in a country where 16 million people live below the poverty line.
To address this shocking food inequality, fifteen businessmen got together in 2005 to form the Egyptian Food Bank. Together with the Chamber of Hotel Establishments, the group has developed a plan to safely distribute wasted food to needy people.
Although Muslims in general are opposed to food waste, contemporary hygiene laws often prohibit establishments from giving away food lest it should become outdated or contaminated. And certainly, this is a valid concern. But the Egyptian Food Bank packages untouched food that is appropriately dated and marked into sealed containers.
7,000 volunteers and 172 staff members distribute these perfectly healthy leftovers to 150,000 families every month! In addition to feeding people, this program averts food from landfills, where they typically generate methane emissions that are awful for the environment.
As climate change becomes the new reality, and food becomes harder to source, we’re going to see more of this kind of innovation. We hope.
More on Food in the Middle East:
image via US Government