JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia ranks number one in the world in wasting food, according to a report by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.
The report revealed that around 30 percent of food produced is wasted amounting to over SR49 billion annually.
The average Saudi wastes 250 kg of food annually compared to the global average of 115 kg.
A large portion of food leftovers are wasted in dinner parties, weddings, restaurants, and hotel buffets.
Saudi Arabia has the highest consumption of grains in the world where the average citizen consumes 158 kg annually compared to the global average of 145 kg per person.
Later this month, the Shoura Council plans to review a proposal of a law to combat food waste and squandering.
The law would comprise penalties on individuals and organizations with regards to food waste, such as enforcing a fee on restaurant goers who leave unfinished plates.
The Social Affairs Committee of the Shoura Council also proposes to establish a national center to limit food waste by offering guidance and awareness campaigns.
Currently, there is no similar law in place that fines individuals on food waste.
Some of the major causes of food waste are low awareness in society, dinner hosts’ tendency to show off to guests and often some restaurants and hotels that have poor organization related to curbing food waste, according to Abdullah Al Darbah, the CEO of Saudi Food Bank “Etaam” in Makkah. Moreover, there is now law that limits food waste, he added.
Considered the first Saudi food bank, it offers a service at 48-hour notice to individuals and organizations by either collecting leftovers in meal boxes in a hygienic manner or recycling food.
The Saudi Food Bank announced since the start of Ramadan its latest initiative of providing 1,740,000 meals to needy families by 360 volunteers.
Throughout the year, the organization saves an average of 9,000 meals per day.
So far it has served 6 million meals. Their visits to hotels, food courts, weddings, and other occasions have saved around 6 million meals so far.
In 2017, 49 tons of leftover food equal to 144,000 meals was stored from Red Sea Mall’s food court restaurants.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s becoming a social custom where hosts offer excessive amounts of food to guests at dinner parties,” commented writer Eman Abdulfatah.
“Some do it to show off and afterwards leftovers are thrown away. Some restaurants with open buffets do the same.”
“It’s mainly due to low awareness in appreciating food, although it is embedded in our religious values,” she added. “Many individuals are not used to fill their plate in reasonable portions.
Meanwhile, health problems among Saudis are prevalent where 59.4 percent of the population suffers from overweight and obesity problems and 23.9 percent are diabetic. Additionally, 40.5 percent have hypertension.