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Ms Naisha Rajani, Dubai's own Greta Thunberg, with her own club members, who works towards the cause to stop food waste and end hunger Image Credit:

DUBAI

Annual food waste in the UAE is estimated at 197 kg per person, compared with 95 to 115 kg in Europe and North America, a top official of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) told Gulf News on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview ahead of the World Food Day October 16, Mageed Yahia, director of WFP Office in UAE and Representative to the GCC, said the figures were based on a recent research report released by the Dubai Industrial Park and The Economist Intelligence Unit on the sidelines of Gulfood 2019.

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“The study also noted that the Government of the UAE is taking steps to develop a regulatory framework to enable recycling of waste into compost,” he said, adding, “The UAE is aiming to recycle 75 per cent of its countries’ municipal solid waste over the next decade.”

Yahia’s comments come in the wake of the #StopTheWaste movement for change, launched by WFP globally across social media platforms.

“It aims to spotlight the global issue of food waste and highlight simple solutions we can all take to prevent it. The campaign is part of the WFP advocacy efforts towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 2: Achieving Zero Hunger by 2030,” Yahia explained.

Sources of maximum waste

According to Yahia, “Food waste happens at all levels, at home, in restaurants, in supermarkets, at hotels. Everywhere.”

He said while food loss occurs mainly in the early stages of the supply chain in developing countries because of poor harvesting, storage and refrigeration, food is wasted mainly in the later stages of the supply chain in industrialised countries - by the consumer, in shops, homes and at the table.

“#StopTheWaste aims to confront this issue and get people to take action by using soon-to-expire ingredients in their cooking, saving the not ‘so-good-looking’ food items, shop and cook smart, save leftovers and re-use them,” he said.

The main challenges in realising the Zero Hunger goal lay in many factors, he noted.

“They include lack of awareness about the effect of food waste on global world hunger and malnutrition; lack of commitment to adopt behavioural changes to minimise food use and consumption; lack of policies, tools and strategies within the food and beverage industry to minimise food waste and manage food production and consumption; and need to follow proper food storage and management practices among food producers, retailers and end consumers.”

UAE activations

He said the WFP office in the UAE has been orgainsing several activations as part of the #Stop the Waste campaign.

“The first was hosted by Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai on October 9 with the attendance of Mariam Almheiri, minister of state for food security, who commended the campaign and highlighted the WFP’s role in the fight against hunger. The second event took place yesterday (October 15) at the Choithrams. A third event is happening on October 16 in Abu Dhabi in collaboration with FAO, the Food Security Minister’s Office and ICBA. More events are also being planned,” he added.

At the Al Wasl Choithrams outlet, 12-year old campaigner and customer Naisha Rajani issued an impassioned plea to stop food waste. She said, “Wastage of food angers me, makes me sad. I have seen a malnourished child and her mother begging two years ago in India and that has changed my life. Please never forget what one piece of bread or a small meal which goes to the dustbin can do for the hungry or needy. When millions are dying due to hunger, we cannot close our eyes. When children are dying due to malnourishment, we cannot forget that. I keep remembering that day from two years back and it breaks my heart.”

What can you do to prevent food waste

Yahia said food waste can be prevented at the individual level by taking small steps:

• Ask for smaller portions – you can always ask for, or order, more

• Love your leftovers – use them as ingredients in tomorrow’s meal

• Shop smart – make a shopping list, don’t shop on an empty stomach

• Buy ugly fruits and vegetables – they’re just as tasty

• Check your fridge – set it to between 1 and 5 degrees, don’t pack it too full

• Cook smart: Practice FIFO – first in, first out of your fridge

• Understand dates on your food – “use by” is not the same as “best by”

• Turn waste into compost – turn it into “garden food”

• Sharing is caring – give surplus food to those in need

How can you help to #StopTheWaste campaign

• Open your fridge and grab any ingredients that are close to their use-by date.

• Post a photo with one of the ingredients you are about to use or film how you make a meal using a soon-to-expire ingredient (or several such ingredients).

• Share your video or pictures, using the #StopTheWaste hashtag, nominate three friends to create their own recipe, and tag the World Food Programme.

• Visit wfp.org/foodwaste to make a pledge to #StopTheWaste and help us reach our target of Zero Hunger by 2030.