Lebanon News

Plans to reduce food wastage bearing fruit

Chefs serve up a meal made of would-be waste food to diners in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Finbar Anderson)

BEIRUT: Guests at the first Annual Awareness Dinner on Food Wastage earlier this week did their utmost to further the evening’s cause, making short work of the buffet prepared by internationally renowned chef Hussein Hadid. The event, organized by ACT NGO Monday evening to raise awareness of the issue of food waste, was hosted by Tawlet in Mar Mikhail. The menu was prepared largely using fruit and vegetables donated by Spinneys, one of ACT’s main partners in reducing the amount of food thrown away unnecessarily.

“The U.N. has put a target to reduce food wastage by 30 percent by 2030,” Paul Abdul Haq, president and founder of ACT, told The Daily Star. Abdul Haq said they had a bipartite approach to reach this target. “We implement projects on the ground, this is on one level. On another level we work on promoting awareness [and] building partnerships,” he added.

One of the organization’s principal projects is their partnership with Spinneys, with whom they have been working for two years. Having identified that a huge amount of edible but unsold fruit and vegetables going to waste from the store’s shelves, they now work with other NGOs to redistribute such food to worthwhile causes.

“There’s a pickup on a daily basis from most branches of Spinneys in the whole of Lebanon, from north to south,” Abdul Haq said. “We have 100-120 kilos of vegetables and fruits that [other organizations] can use.”

Hanady Khawand, Senior Marketing Specialist at Spinneys, was delighted with the project’s progress. “We started with one branch. All the food wastage from the fruits, vegetables and bakery was taken [by] an NGO. Then we started with more branches and now it’s seven or eight branches, and more than 17 NGOs are taking food waste and making food for families in need.”

For Souk el Tayeb, the organization behind Tawlet, hosting the dinner at their restaurant made perfect sense. “We are involved, since day one, on food wastage and food wastage prevention,” Ali Dorra, Tawlet’s manager, told The Daily Star. “We are co-operating with Lebanese Food Bank, who come on a daily basis.”

Tawlet is keen to encourage other restaurants to start donating unused food. “The nature of the restaurant is unpredictable; they don’t know how many people are going to come. Sometimes it’s a full house, sometimes it’s half,” Dorra said. Donating to a good cause means that the food “never goes to waste.”

Fortunately, he noted, local food culture accommodates reused ingredients well. Many dishes are “even better the next day. The Lebanese cuisine is based on making food to be eaten over three or four days.”

Dorra sees positive signs that food waste in the country is being reduced, and people throughout the country are “changing their mentality.” Abdul Haq hopes that events like this will accelerate the process. “We are all in this,” she said. “We should work together.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 18, 2017, on page 3.

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