Ramadan special: The second annual ‘Got Food?’ drive being launched on June 23 Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/XPRESS

Dubai: Hundreds of residents living in abysmal conditions survive on rations and freshly cooked meals supplied by well-to-do families under a unique initiative in Dubai.

Far from the flash campaigns that distribute goodies among workers only during Ramadan, this initiative by the NGO Ro’yati Family Society runs throughout the year, providing poor families with groceries and fresh food.

Significantly, the families are of different nationalities while the donors are mainly Emiratis.

Last year, an XPRESS cover story revealed how the Ro’yati Family Society with support from Dubai Municipality arranged quality leftover food from posh hotels, homes and supermarkets for 70,000 residents.

This year, the number has gone up to 80,000. Not just that, the project’s success has prompted affluent residents to cook fresh meals for the needy on a regular basis and/or provide them with basic groceries.

“The idea was a spin-off from the leftover food project. We thought it was a good way to sustain the food supply to the families, instead of just waiting for a big wedding or event to generate leftovers. Over 500 residents are benefiting from this effort,” said Lina Kilani, project manager at Ro’yati Family Society.

On June 21, XPRESS visited some of these families with the Emirati volunteers.

Pakistani beneficiary Zulekha Khalid, who lives in an Al Quoz villa compound with eight other families, said: “I can’t thank Allah enough” as she received a bag of groceries from Emirati student volunteer Hind.

Zulekha said she has been fending for herself and her three children aged 17, 16 and 13 after her ailing husband left for Pakistan. “We have no means to go back. I do some embroidery work but it is very difficult to make ends meet. My children can’t attend school either.”

At another run-down room in the neighbourhood, Basheer Ali and his seven children were equally grateful.

“We are three sisters and four brothers,” said the eldest son who is the only earning member in the house. “My income as a driver is not enough for us. One of my brothers was crippled in an accident.”

Ramza Ghulam Farid, who is more than just a driver at the Ro’yati Family Society, said: “We comb through areas like Al Quoz, Sonapur, Rashidiya and Satwa to identify needy families. They wait for our refrigerated trucks to bring them food.”

Common items

The items most commonly distributed are rice with chicken and vegetables, kebabs, yoghurt, soft drinks and date sweets. Groceries include basic requirements like rice, pasta, flour, oil, lentils, sugar, tea, coffee, soups and canned foods.

Lina said she expects supplies to go up during Ramadan. An expert on Islamic economy who teaches at Zayed University, she said: “We must see how best we can optimise consumption and bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots.” On June 23, the second annual Got Food? campaign, driven by expat volunteers Zeba Alam and Anam Zaman, was launched at the Ro’yati Family Society.

“The aim is to provide groceries to thousands of less fortunate residents. Last year, 18,583 benefited from our Ramadan drive. This year, we’re targeting 30,000,” said Zeba.

She said the effort is to encourage people organise food drives in their neighbourhoods or workplaces and collect groceries to be given to the needy.

For campaign details, go to facebook.com/GotFoodDubai.