Amid growing concern about food waste in Qatar, a local charity is renewing efforts to collect and distribute leftover meals to the country’s needy.
For the past several years, the Sheikh Eid Charity Association has offered a pickup service to collect leftover food from homes, hotels and restaurants, following special occasions like weddings or banquets, where large quantities of food are usually thrown away.
According to charity director Mohammad Ibrahim, response to the group’s program has been overwhelming in recent months.
In a statement, he said that the charity has increased its staff and has been working around the clock to manage the surge.
Employees make around 50 trips a day to pick up food donations around Qatar, which must be checked to ensure its quality and distributed quickly before it spoils.
The charity typically distributes some 25,000 meals a month to workers and families in need around Qatar, using 11 mini-vans.
But donations can ebb and flow based on the season. Last month for example, the charity received 10 tons of food in two days – enough to make more than 4,000 meals – which it distributed to 3,000 workers in Sinaeya, Abu Hamour and Shahaniya.
Last month also proved busy because the charity participated in the recent Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF). There, it worked to raise awareness regarding consumption and encouraged companies and hotels participating in the event to give away the leftover food from the festival to those in need.
Another very active time is during the month of Ramadan, where it is estimated that some 25 percent of food goes to waste because community members and hotels hold such lavish iftaar dinners.
How it works
Speaking to Doha News, a volunteer in the program said the pickup service is only offered when there are large amounts of food, enough for 10 to 20 people.
“Large amounts of leftover food need to be transported and distributed by vans, but small amounts can easily be distributed by the donors themselves,” the volunteer explained.
The charity has several centers in Qatar, including the main center in Madinat Khalifa North, as well as branches in Al Shahaniya, Abu Hamour, Al Khor and Al Wakrah, according to the volunteer.
Those who wish to donate smaller amounts of food can drop them off at one of these locations.
To dispatch a pickup van, residents can call the charity’s operators 24/7 at 66665121. On Friday, operators are available from 4pm.
In addition to leftovers, donations can include rice, cooking oil, sugar and lean meat. No cash is accepted.
Though Qatar is considered one of the wealthiest countries in the world per capita, many of its residents struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis.
In addition to distributing meals to Qatar’s many low-income construction workers, priority is given to the families of widows, divorced female residents and those who suffer from chronic diseases.
Since the leftover pickup service was launched in 2008, the charity has also extended its distribution outside of Qatar, to Syrian refugees and those in need in Mauritania.