Globally, 1.3b tons of food goes to waste each year


According to the US Natural Resources Defense Council, 40% of the food produced in the US gets tossed out every year; that is $165 billion worth of uneaten food.

Statistics for the Kingdom are not as accurate, but it has been estimated that somewhere between 30% and 50% of the food produced in the country ends up in waste.

In fact, discarded food is the No. 1 contributor to the waste in landfills in the Kingdom. Cultural practices at weddings, family gatherings, and other occasions call for the preparation of lavish amounts of food, most of which is left untouched and thrown out.

While our society is throwing out so much food, 200 million people go hungry every day in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN World Food Program report.

Tareq Al-Salman, an expert in financing non-profit organizations and charitable projects said, “There are many behaviors in our society related to excessiveness and ostentation. Saudi Arabia is the No. 1 biggest importer in the Middle East of food and nutritional products. The World Food Bank stated that in Saudi Arabia in the Eastern Province alone, every day restaurants and hotels prepare 4 million meals.”

Just imagine the extent of food, which goes to waste each day.

Changes need to be made by each of us; in homes, schools, businesses, and the society at large.

Teachings of Islam explicitly criticize excessiveness in all matters.

{…and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not the extravagant.} (chapter 7, verse 31)

The first step in reducing world hunger is to change our eating behavior and to follow the words of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

He said, “No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one-third for his food, one-third for his drink, and one-third for his breath.”

The idea is to cook or buy food in amounts that you physically need (not that you think you want) and to eat in moderation. At restaurants some people order more food than they could possibly eat at one sitting.

When you order carefully but still have left over food, what should you do?

Always serve food with a clean and separate serving spoon, not from a spoon that you or anyone else at the table is using. That ensures that the food stays clean so it can be given afterwards to someone in need.

Wrap the clean, leftover food and give it to the doorman of your building, janitor at school or work, your driver, or the men cleaning our streets, or those operating gas stations.

In restaurants, the problem of throwing out food is far greater.

A small number of restaurants have adopted creative initiatives that aim to curb the squandering of food.

Al-Romansiah restaurant started a project, which they called ‘being thankful for blessings’.

Before the customer leaves, a waiter packs the customer’s clean, untouched food in sturdy containers and then places the food container in a pleasant looking gift box. The customer can take the food home to share with family or can give the food to someone in need. It makes a huge difference to give someone warm food, neatly and nicely packed in an attractive box, rather than clumps of food messily dumped into a bag.

“The goal of this project is to end up with zero excess of food because of the spiritual, social, and environmental benefits it will bring our community. We also educate our customers on the importance of preserving food,” said Ali Al-Hammami, spokesperson for the restaurant.

Driven by the devastating famine, which struck Somalia two years ago, the owner of a restaurant in the Eastern Province implemented a different initiative.

“We have implemented a fine for customers who leave food in their plates, which ultimately will be thrown away. The fine itself is mandatory, but the amount is anything the customer wants to give, big or small. The money goes into a donation box and at the end of each month we send the amount to feed people in a hunger-stricken country,” said Fahad Al-Enazi, owner of Marmar restaurant.

The feedback from his customers gradually shifted from reluctance to surprise to acceptance, and finally to enthusiastic support for his idea and project.

Al-Saraya restaurant has an efficient and systematic way of packing leftover food, from the original dishes — not from the customers’ plates. Cold foods and appetizers are separated from hot foods and each is packaged accordingly. The customer is offered the choice to take home or to give to someone poor or to leave the responsibility on the restaurant to distribute the food.

“In addition, we placed a bell outside the restaurant that any passer-by can ring. Immediately, an employee attends to the person and asks how many people will be eating. A complete meal of good, clean food will be served, free of charge. This service is available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are so many people out there who start their day without enough money in their pockets to buy food,” said Khalid Al-Mutawa, manager of the restaurant.

The restaurant so far reported only one incident of someone who abused the service as he was not poor. A couple of people rang the bell and ran away, but apart from that, the restaurant has been serving warm meals to people who otherwise would have gone hungry or begged on the streets.

Think up your own initiative to stop the wasting of food.




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