Workers receive food packets from Dubai Municipality officials at the newly opened Food Bank sponsored by the Essa Al Gurg Foundation. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran / Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai is beginning a new war against food waste on Monday to mark World Food Day 2017.

On behalf of the UAE Food Bank, Dubai Municipality, which runs the first branch of the Food Bank, has created the hastag #ZeroFoodWaste, a campaign to commit to zero tolerance for food waste by both food establishments and residents.

Khalid Mohammad Sherif Al Awadhi, assistant director general for Environment, Health and Safety Control Sector, said everyone has a role to play in achieving this ambitious goal on World Food Day, and beyond.

  Even bad agricultural practices on farms and wrong practices at factories cause a lot of food wastage before it enters the food supply chain."

 - Bashir Hassan Yousif, food safety expert, Dubai Municipality

“Whether you are an individual or a food business, you should make a conscious effort to reduce food waste in Dubai and UAE,” he told Gulf News.

From better stock management, food transport and storage solutions to reducing portion sizes and communicating effectively to identify expectations of consumers, food businesses can do various things to control food waste, he noted.

At home, he said, all family members should make a conscious effort to prevent food wastage.

Bashir Hassan Yousif, food safety expert, Dubai Municipality, said efforts to reduce food wastage in households should start from the time of shopping for groceries and produce.

“Smart shopping can reduce a lot of food wastage. Some people buy food in bulk and most of it rots before it is eaten. Plan your grocery shopping as per the needs of the family and cook only what is required,” he advised.

New food culture

The campaign, Yousif said, is the starting point to make #ZeroFoodWaste a new food culture in Dubai — a culture of being aware about the planet, environment, energy and hunger, all of which are linked to food wastage.

“Authorities alone cannot implement such a goal. Everyone should take up this responsibility.”

He noted that even bad agricultural practices at farms and wrong practices at factories cause a lot of food wastage before it enters the food supply chain.

“But now we are concentrating on the food that has entered the chain.”

Sometimes, he said, it is the way people perceive food safety and shelf life [that also impacts the food chain]..

“People throw away food, which is still safe for consumption, if it reaches expiry date. If you don’t have enough control on the food chain, especially in refrigeration, food is wasted.”

Although this is something related to sustainability, Yousif said the municipality wants to minimise food waste in the first place.

“Waste not a morsel should be our motto. It will only be possible if you realise the value of the labour, water, energy, land and other inputs that have gone behind preparing each morsel.”

With a high prevalence of food wastage in the country, the government aims to recycle 75 per cent of food waste by 2021.

“We are planning to organise this campaign every year and conduct more activities under this theme,” said Al Awadhi.

World Food Day Contests

For food establishments

Food establishments have been asked to present innovative ideas to cut down food wastage. They can present the tools and methodologies for identifying food losses, causes and solutions along the food value chain, from production, storage and processing to distribution and consumption. Participants can submit their ideas after signing up for the campaign through the website www.foodsafetydubai.com by clicking the link #ZeroFoodWaste

Dubai Municipality officials said the contest for food businesses will continue throughout the week.

Rewards and appreciation await winners of the contest and they will also be able to present their entries at the 11th Dubai International Food Safety Conference in November, said Jehaina Hassan Al Ali, acting head of awareness and applied nutrition at Applied Nutrition Section in the Food Safety Department.

“We wish to publicise the efforts of people who are making a difference in the industry. They will be able to demonstrate their ideas at the conference and they will be honoured in front of the top names in food safety across the world.”

She noted that the global conference will ensure a wider audience for showcasing Dubai’s efforts in reducing food wastage.

Social media contest

Residents, including Dubai Municipality employees, have been urged to share their creative thoughts, ideas and messages on ways and means to reduce food wastage on their favourite social media channels using the hashtag #ZeroFoodWaste.

They can also take screenshots of their posts and email them to UAEfoodbank@dm.gov.ae to win the Most Creative Post Competition and win prizes.

“We are also targeting schools in the campaign,” said Al Ali.

Schools can participate by creating a poster or a video that conveys the message against food wastage.

Winners will be honoured at the conference.

Mass food donation drive

Dubai will witness a mass food donation drive on World Food Day this year, officials told Gulf News.

While the authorities are organising food distribution for thousands of workers through the UAE Food Bank, members of the public have been urged to participate in the food donation programme through the charity fridges under the Food Bank.

As reported by Gulf News earlier, the fridges, which were placed at 80 mosques across the emirate during Ramadan, will continue supporting those living in hardship.

“We will be publicising the locations of these fridges and creating better awareness about them during World Food Day activities,” said Dubai Municipality’s food safety specialist, Bobby Krishna.

The list of their locations (which is currently available in Arabic on the municipality’s website www.dm.gov.ae) along with their Makani numbers to track down their addresses will be made public during the campaign.

“Fill up the fridges’ initiative invites residents to donate food. They should only donate packaged food [for food safety concerns],” said Krishna.

Khalid Mohammad Sherif Al Awadhi, assistant director general for Environment, Health and Safety Control Sector, said it is important for Dubai residents to understand the role of Food Bank and learn what they can do to contribute to without letting the food go waste.

“On World Food Day and days after that, we would like everyone to utilise the Food Bank Food fridges across the city,” he said.