By Majd Othman
KUWAIT: A recent report indicated that an individual in Kuwait wastes 95 kg of food annually. Meanwhile, Kuwaiti families waste 397,700 tons of food every year, according to the food waste index report for 2021 issued by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and partner organization WRAP. The report shows that most of this waste comes from households, which dispose 11 percent of the total food available in the consumption stage in the food chain, while food service establishments and retail outlets waste five percent and two percent respectively.
Meshal Al-Ansari, Vice President of Kuwait Bank for Food and Relief, told Kuwait Times the bank had submitted a project proposal to relevant authorities to establish a factory that recycles surplus food to produce chemical fertilizer and animal feed. "Food waste has increased significantly in Kuwait in the past few years due to a lack of awareness by individuals and food service establishments, which requires a strong pause to study the laws and legislation that should be set to reduce food waste," Ansari stressed.
Kuwait ranks 20 on the list of top food-wasting countries in the world, according to the report, with 931 million tons of food wasted annually in the world, which is equivalent to 17 percent of available food. The Food Bank for Food and Relief is a charitable organization approved by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor that was established with the aim of fighting hunger and poverty, as well as reducing food waste through awareness and guidance.
Regarding the food bank's mechanisms that are being implemented to reduce or take advantage of surplus food, Ansari pointed out the bank has made an agreement with a volunteer team called "Al-Issa Endowment" to distribute surplus cooked meals from restaurants, hotels and home banquets to needy families in Kuwait. "Meanwhile, the food bank, in cooperation with the ministry of education, has started a campaign that educates and guides school students to learn ways of reducing food waste. It boosts awareness of the negative effects of food waste and the damage it causes to the individual and society," he said.
"As for the direct role of the food bank, we do not deal with unpacked materials. Our direct work is only related to canned products that have a validity of not less than three months," Ansari said. "Co-ops and companies have a list of monthly sales and have knowledge of monthly surpluses. They allocate a percentage of the surplus for donation, playing a community role and preventing food waste." Ansari pointed out there are companies that refuse to donate surplus food and prefer to waste it, saying they have commercial goals and try to maintain prices. However, "community participation and donation of the surplus returns to the company as double profits," he said.
Ansari strongly agreed on the importance of setting laws and legislations to reduce wastage. "We have income from oil that covers the costs of wasted food, but now after a big rise in food prices globally, it has become a burden on families and forces them to only buy basic foodstuffs," he said. "With the presence of legislations and regulations that regulate food waste and security, it will help the country to reduce food waste, as well as save huge amounts of money wasted annually."
Ansari warned not to rely on the current food price rise to reduce food waste. "With the rise in prices, people are forced to buy less food, but we must have continuous projects for the future and not think about a reaction to the current situation, because prices may fall in the future or the price of oil will rise, along with lifestyles, which will lead us back to food waste," he said. A special committee should be established by people involved in the food sector to find radical solutions to implement goals and keep up with international communities that work on reducing food waste.