People at Jiwin Staff Accommodation in Al Quoz, stand in queue for food, while UAE food Bank donates food to mark World Food Day 2017. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: Surplus food from star-rated hotels and other food outlets in Dubai will soon feed Syrian and Yemeni refugees and the needy in countries like Somalia, thanks to the UAE Food Bank spreading its wings.

The Food Bank has signed a partnership agreement with the Food Banking Regional Network (FBRN), which connects 33 food banks in 32 countries in the region, including the UAE.

615 tonnes of food channelised by the UAE Food Bank from April 2017 to the end of July through its two branches in Dubai

As per the agreement, surplus food donated to the UAE Food Bank will be sent to the needy in these countries through FBRN.

Dawood Abdul Rahman Al Hajiri, director general of Dubai Municipality and deputy chairman of the UAE Food Bank’s board of trustees, said it is part of the food bank’s strategy to extend its operations outside the UAE.

“This is a big step for this humanitarian project. It will give us a chance to support the needy in many countries and reduce food wastage,” said Al Hajiri.

Since April 2017 till the end of July 2018, the food bank — through its two branches in Dubai — channelised the donation of 615 tonnes of food, which would otherwise have gone to waste.

“So far, we have not sent any food outside the UAE. Now, it will start.”

The third branch of the food bank, sponsored by the Easa Al Gurg Charity Foundation, will open in Al Muhaisnah in two months, said Khalid Sharif Al Awadhi, assistant director general of Environment, Health and Safety Control Sector at Dubai Municipality.

33 food banks will receive food through the Food Banking Regional Network

Surplus cooked food will be frozen and vacuum-packed to ensure safety, before being sent outside the UAE. “We have a lot of [surplus] food and there are not many people lacking food here. Our aim is to reduce the food wastage here. In five years, all the hotels in the UAE should reduce organic waste. It is very important,” he said.

Packaged and canned food products will also be sent to the needy abroad. The donations will be channelised through charity organisations approved by FBRN.

A non-profit organisation registered at the International Humanitarian City in Dubai in 2013, FBRN is engaged in safe packaging and transportation of donated food stuffs to partner charity organisations.

12m people benefited from the Food Banking Regional Network’s programmes

Moez El Shohdi, FBRN’s co-founder and CEO, said the first model of the food bank under it was launched in Egypt in 2006. “We now serve more than 12 million people through different programmes. In Egypt alone, we’re saving 20 million meals per month from wastage. What we can save here in the UAE will be much more.”

Food wastage is estimated at Dh4 billion a year, ranking the UAE as the fourth highest in the world per capita for throwing away surplus food.

Food from the UAE will be channelised through food banks under FBRN that serve the needy, including refugees from war-hit countries like Syria and Yemen, malnourished children in Somalia, and the sick and the unemployed in Egypt.

“We also provide food to people who are unable to work including the elderly, households with chronic diseases, single mothers and orphans. Food waste reduction awareness campaigns are also part of our activities.”

Together against hunger

The UAE Food Bank has signed a partnership agreement with the Food Banking Regional Network to expand its humanitarian operations abroad.

How it works 

■  The UAE Food Bank will collect surplus food from hotels and other food outlets in the UAE.

■  Cooked food will be frozen and vacuum-packed before being sent abroad through the Food Banking Regional Network. 

■  Packaged and canned food products will also be donated through the network.

■  Approved charity organisations will distribute the donated food to the needy, including the unemployed, refugees and malnourished children, depending on the requirement.

UAE Food Bank 

A non-profit charitable organization launched on January 4, 2017, under the umbrella of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, it collaborates with local authorities as well as local and international charities to create a comprehensive ecosystem to efficiently store, package and distribute excess fresh food from hotels, restaurants and supermarkets. Dubai Municipality oversees the management and operation of the food bank.

Food Banking Regional Network 

Established in 2013 at the International Humanitarian City Dubai, it is a non-profit umbrella organisation for food banks in the region. It aims to unify regional food banks operating in the field of alleviating hunger, fighting malnutrition and managing food waste.