Green Prophet recently posted about 2017 being the Chinese year of the monkey, but the Vice President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has instead declared it the ‘Year of Giving’. H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and UAE VP, has launched the non-profit UAE Food Bank, which will distribute unused food from commercial sources to those in need. It aims to make Dubai the first Middle East city to reach zero food waste.
According to a statement released by the Media Office, the new organization will working in partnership “with hotels and restaurants, food-manufacturing companies and supermarkets and introduce a process of preserving, storing and packaging the food, with the goal to optimize usage and achieve zero waste.” Sheikh Mohammed’s wife, Sheikha Hind bint Maktoum, will chair its board of trustees.
The action plan is straightforward:
- Dubai Municipality will give operational support – collecting, packaging, storing and distributing the food.
- Trained volunteers will support activities at all Food Bank locations. They will also collect surplus food from the appointed authorities, and distribute it to those in need, in and outside the UAE.
- The Food Bank will also recycle the remnants of inedible food for re-use as nonconsumable products, as example, for agricultural fertilizer and as feedstock for scientific research.
- Food Bank partners and participants will adhere to “an integrated mechanism for food preservation”, based on international food safety guidelines and best practices.
- The operation will start in Dubai and then expand to underdeveloped communities beyond the UAE.
“The Year of Giving provides a golden opportunity for UAE citizens and institutions to maximise their philanthropic potential by launching humanitarian initiatives. We chose ‘food’ as our first initiative as it is one of the most basic human needs,” Sheikh Mohammed explained. “Through the UAE Food Bank, we aim to instill the value of giving deep in the hearts of our people.”
“We are also inspired by the boundless generosity of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” he added, “especially during the month of Ramadan, when he provides meals to millions of underprivileged people daily. The UAE Food Bank seeks to immortalize these values in future generations by engaging community-based volunteers and organisations so that the spirit of philanthropy spreads beyond the borders of the UAE as the Year of Giving unfolds.”
Dubai’s hospitality industry is robust, with a clear focus on delivering top-class eating experiences. According to calculations by TOPHOTELPROJECTS, which tracks worldwide first-class and luxury hotel construction projects, Dubai’s hotel rooms will reach more than 100,000 by 2020, when the emirate hosts the World Expo. Food waste on a grand scale is inevitable, now estimated to cost the emirate over USD $3.5 billion each year.
Last June, Ivano Ianelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon, reported that “an average person in Europe generates around 1.2kg of waste a day, which is less than half the per capita waste generation of 2.7kg per day in the UAE. This doubles to 5.4kg a day during Ramadan in the UAE. Clearly this is something that needs to be addressed.”
The UAE has previously tackled waste caused by public phobia about ‘sell-by” dates, and in 2012 initiated a program to encourage mall operators to segregate organic waste from general trash thereby minimizing the material slated for landfills and streamlining municipal waste management. But the emirate remains alongside Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait when it comes to unecessary food waste. The Food Bank holds potential to place the emirate as a regional and world leader in creative solutions to both food poverty and waste control.