Dubai: Around 10 per cent of hotels, restaurants and hypermarket chains in Dubai are already donating their edible excess food and goods to the needy. And this would further increase with the launch of the UAE Food Bank, charities say.

To kick off the Year of Giving, the UAE Food Bank launched last week will partner with food producers, the hospitality sector, and giant supermarkets to channel their surplus fresh and dry foods to charities that feed the needy in the UAE and beyond.

While the initiative is new in the country, the practice is not, said Lina Kilani, Project Manager of Social Project of the Royati Family Society.

The charity group holds the Hifz Al Ni’am (Value the Blessings) that collects and distributes edible food from hotels and hypermarket chains to families in need all throughout the year under the supervision of the Dubai Municipality (DM).

“We have been working to feed the needy for the past 11 years. When we started it used to benefit 4,000 people. Now, we are helping feed around 200,000 people through this initiative,” Kilani told Gulf News.

Kilani is confident that the numbers will grow even bigger, and the impact be more life changing.

“Around 10 per cent of hotels in Dubai have been helping us for in the past. Many more are willing, but have reservations due to food safety concerns. This initiative will impact more people as it is legalised and will be more organised, considering Dubai has a lot of hotels, weddings, and many other events.”

Donors who have already contributed to the existing Hifz Al Ni’am initiative agree — and pledge to do more.

“We are already contributing as much as possible since we started with the food donation in June last year. We will look at ways to increase the donations, in alliance with Dubai Municipality,” Aurelia Caccamo, Director of Food Safety and Environmental Services, at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, told Gulf News.

The hotel started working with Tarahum Charity Foundation during Ramadan in 2016 and donated 7,226.5kg of food including vegetables, beef, chicken and seafood dishes, grains and pasta, as well as desserts and bread.

Over 23,000 underprivileged people had fresh five-star quality hotel food on their tables from June to December, according to hotel figures.

“We know where the food goes to every time and so it is very satisfying to see lines of people getting food from us,” Caccamo said.

Supermarket chain Choithrams said it plans to work closely with the UAE Food Bank and help ensure its success.

A frequent donor not only to the Hifz Al Ni’am initiative, Choithrams has contributed to global efforts to end hunger with the World Food Programme since 2015.

Choithrams and its customers donated a total of Dh1.2 million that year, a spokesperson told Gulf News. Some 354,362 nutritious school meals were distributed to children in need through this. During Ramadan last year, Choithrams also channelled customer donations of Dh709,434 to the needy.

“Since the past few years, we have always participated in various initiatives to eradicate hunger. With the UAE food bank, it will further fuel our efforts to address this global issue,” the spokesperson said.

Other hotel chains, shopping mall groups and restaurant chains have also pledged their support.

The Jumeirah Group, for example, was among the first to voice their support even before specific details of the initiative were released.

“We are eager to collaborate and are working to identify how best Jumeirah can maximise our partnership and contribution towards this very important initiative,” a spokesperson said.

Fuad Mansoor Sharaf from Majid Al Futtaim said their group’s core values “align with the Food Bank’s humanitarian mission to provide food for the less fortunate, while simultaneously reducing wastage”.

Hospitality Management Holdings, Jackberrys, Jaleel Holdings, Fathima Group and a number of others have promised to will contribute as well.

Fact file

- Around one third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted. Using online estimates, we calculated that this much waste can fill 670,077 Olympic-size swimming pools.

- Saving even just one-fourth of the total food wasted globally is enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world. Just to give you an idea, that’s equivalent to the total population of Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Brazil, and Mexico combined.

- 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere per year by food waste

- $4 billion (Dh14.69 billion): the estimated amount of leftover food tossed into the garbage from UAE homes, eateries and large events that end up in landfills every year

 - 38 per cent of the food prepared every day in Dubai gets wasted, this spikes to around 60 per cent during Ramadan