Non-profit shows how Gulf states can do away with food waste

Conserving Bounties takes unused, but perfectly edible, food from the likes of the Four Seasons and Sheraton. (Supplied)
Updated 30 August 2019
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Non-profit shows how Gulf states can do away with food waste

  • Conserving Bounties collects surplus food from hotels, restaurants and supermarkets in Bahrain
  • Since its launch in 2014, the non-profit has handed out close to 490,000 meals

BAHRAIN: “Your excess is someone else’s relief” is the slogan chosen by Conserving Bounties, a non-profit food bank in Bahrain that collects surplus food from hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and private events, and distributes it to needy workers and underprivileged families.

Food waste in Bahrain is estimated at more than 400 tons per day, with the number surging past 600 tons during Ramadan, according to the country’s Supreme Council for Environment.

“We believe it’s not the intention of people in our society to throw away food. It’s part of our Islamic principles … to conserve surplus food, help others and be thankful for all bounties,” said Conserving Bounties CEO Ahmed Al-Kuwaiti.

“However, we needed an initiative to create awareness, and to show people how they can reduce food waste as well as donate unused food.”

Conserving Bounties has signed contracts with hotels, restaurants and bakeries to collect food that is in good condition, in compliance with health and safety standards.

Adherents include the Intercontinental Regency, the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons and the Sheraton, as well as Lulu Hypermarket, Alosra, IKEA and Paul Cafe.

Since its launch in 2014, Conserving Bounties has handed out close to 490,000 meals, and aims to increase distribution to almost 21,000 meals per month over the next two years, Al-Kuwaiti said.

“We have a hotline for people to book a collection for an event. We pack the edible food from open buffets,” he added.

Founded and run by a group of philanthropists, Conserving Bounties was inspired by Itaam, a food bank in neighboring Saudi Arabia that also feeds the less privileged by distributing excess food from hotels and parties.

Al-Kuwaiti said convincing families to donate rather than bin food from their private events has been far easier than getting hotels and hypermarkets on board.

“Hotels and supermarkets worry about their reputation,” he added. “They worry about food poisoning, or if there’s any problem as a result of someone consuming leftovers.”

We have a hotline for people to book a collection for an event. We pack the edible food from open buffets.”

To address these concerns, Conserving Bounties provides a no-responsibility disclaimer to assure outlets that they will not be held liable.

Even so, Al-Kuwaiti said, many organizations need further persuading, which is why Conserving Bounties is lobbying for a new law that could make it illegal for food outlets and supermarkets in Bahrain to trash untouched food still fit for consumption.

“We have a committee studying the idea of introducing a food waste law. We’re looking at modeling it on France’s food waste law. Such a law would make it easier for us to sign contracts to collect food,” he added.

Early in 2016, France became the world’s first country to pass legislation that prohibits large supermarkets from discarding food that is still safe to eat. 

French stores must either compost the unused food or donate it to charities such as food banks.

Every year, roughly one-third of the world’s food is lost or thrown away, estimates the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 

Currently, annual waste amounts to 1.6 billion tons, or around $1.2 trillion worth of food squandered.

At the same time, hunger has been on the rise over the past three years, according to 2018 figures from the FAO.

This marks a return to levels from a decade ago, with 821 million people worldwide going hungry in 2017.

Al-Kuwaiti said Gulf Arab states are among the world’s top generators of food waste, and “extravagant dining” is among the chief culprits.

In Bahrain, a country with a population of around 1.6 million, the total waste per year is 146,000 tons, costing about 94.9 million dinars (almost $252 million), he added.

“Our initiative is consistent with the global UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted by Bahrain, especially goal no. 2 on the total elimination of hunger, and goal no. 12 to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns, and reduce waste production through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse by 2030,” Al-Kuwaiti said.

 

• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.


Celine Dion returns to Canada to kick off world tour

Updated 19 September 2019

Celine Dion returns to Canada to kick off world tour

  • The Grammy winner also recently announced the release of a new album titled “Courage”
  • She said in April that she felt motivated to create new music and hit the road after the 2016 death of her husband and manager

QUEBEC CITY: After living and crooning for years in Las Vegas, French-Canadian superstar Celine Dion returned home to Quebec to kick off her first world tour in a decade on Wednesday.
At 51, the Grammy winner also recently announced the release of a new album titled “Courage,” which will be her 12th in English and is due out on November 15.
The first single “Flying On My Own,” featuring her powerful vocals backed by techno beats, has already hit the airwaves, while three more dropped Wednesday: “Courage,” “Lying Down” and “Imperfections.”
Known for her blockbuster ballads, Dion said in April that she felt motivated to create new music and hit the road after the 2016 death of her husband and manager Rene Angelil.
“When I lost Rene, he wanted me back on stage. He wanted to make sure I was still practicing my passion,” she said. “I wanted to prove to him that I’m fine, we’re fine, we’re going to be OK. I’ve got this.”
So, after more than 1,140 concerts for 4.5 million fans over 16 years in Sin City, she bid adieu to the Colosseum at Caesars Palace with a final two-hour show.
“Courage is exactly the way I feel,” she told public broadcaster CBC at the time, talking up the upcoming tour of the same name.
“In the past three years, it has been difficult for me to talk to my children, to raise them, to lose my husband, wondering am I going to sing again... so much has happened, but at the same time I feel that I’m in control of my life.”
Some 60 dates in North American have been confirmed so far, her label said, with two arena shows in Quebec City on Wednesday and Saturday kicking off the tour, which will run through April 2020, and will be her first world tour since 2008-2009.
Her show was almost two hours of mastery, as she performed some of her greatest hits — from “I’m Alive” to “My Heart Will Go On” — as well as new material to an ecstatic crowd of roughly 20,000.
“It was really impossible to miss Celine at home,” Nicolas Delivre, a French university exchange student in Montreal, told AFP.
Donald Berard, from Quebec City, said he had grown up listening to Dion. “We love her like a member of our family.”
“Courage” marks the first album and tour in Dion’s long career without Angelil, who steered her success beginning in 1981 when he mortgaged his house to finance the young teen’s debut album.
The pair began a personal relationship in 1988 when she was only 19 years old, and married in a lavish ceremony in 1994. Angelil died of throat cancer at age 73.
In an interview with NBC’s Today show, Dion revealed that she longs for the hugs and laughs that come with a relationship, but added, “I’m not ready to date.”
The youngest of a family of 14 children raised in the suburbs of Montreal, Dion has sold 250 million copies of 23 studio albums in English and French, including collaborations with French singer-songwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder.
Back in Canada, she told the Montreal Gazette that the tour schedule was “a little crazy,” but that she had found time in advance to take in life’s small pleasures.
At a press junket last Friday, Dion told Radio-Canada: “There are good wines that age well, and there are good wines that age badly. I hope to be a good bottle of wine.”
“I’m not a new Celine,” Dion added. “I’m a continuity of myself.”