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UAE Launches Food Bank

By Linda Gradstein | The Media Line

January 5, 2017

A Palestinian man makes falafel, a traditional dish consisting of fried chickpeas on a street in the West Bank city of Nablus on September 19, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI

Goal is Zero Food Waste

The UAE, with its huge oil resources, is not usually associated with poverty. But outside the two largest emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, there is poverty, while food waste in the country is ending up in landfills. Worldwide, an estimated one-third of all food is wasted.

In Abu Dhabi, between 35 and 50 percent of the total waste generated is food, waste that ends up in landfills and can eventually damage ecosystems and water supplies. At the same time, poor people can benefit from that food.

To mark the 11th anniversary of his becoming the rule of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid launched a food bank initiative which aims to completely eliminate food waste. He said the aim is to gather unwanted food from restaurants, hotels and restaurants and distribute it to the poor. The Dubai municipality will help with food collection, packages, storage and distribution. A cadre of volunteers will also be trained.

Sheikh Mohammed’s wife, Sheikha Hind bint Makhtou, will chair the Food Bank’s Board of Trustees. She said the international community must do more to fight poverty.

“The UAE always supports people in need, regardless of their color, sex or religion, in pursuance of the approach established by the founder of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” she said in a statement.

Several large organizations including the Jumeirah Group, Dubai’s International luxury hotel chain which has properties in the UAE, Europe and Asia said it would cooperate with the new food bank.

Dubai World Trade Center also announced it would donate surplus food from its events.

“Not only is the UAE Food Bank initiative a notable humanitarian effort, it’s also a monumental step in the right direction for the UAE and the region,” Abdulhamid Alomar, the chief executive of Talabat, an online food ordering service told The Media Line. “Talabat would absolutely want to be part of this initiative and support it in any way we can.”

While Dubai and Abu Dhabi have high literacy rates and a high per capita income due to oil, the country’s other five states have a higher poverty level. In addition, there are thousands of foreign workers who need food assistance.

The Food Bank will start in Dubai, but the organizers hope to expand it throughout the Middle East.
The initiative is part of a project called “The Year of Giving.”

“The Year of Giving is a golden opportunity to unleash the humanitarian potential and charitable innovations of the UAE people and all local institutions. We are very pleased to begin the Year of Giving with an initiative related to the most important human need, food, to deepen the merit of generosity in Emirati people,” Shaikh Mohammad said.

“The UAE people are one on the most generous. We will try through the Emirates Food Bank to put this great value of generosity and feeding people within a sustainable institutional framework,” Shaikh Mohammad added.

Officials said they are modeling the Food Bank on similar organizations in other countries. The Love Food The Waste program in the UK reduced food waste by about 21 percent.

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