Image via The Asia Tatler
You might think that the biggest contributors to food wastage during Ramadan might be those expensive hotel buffet meals kan? Well actually, it’s the Ramadan bazaars that contribute to most of the food waste during the fasting month.
Food Aid Foundation, a food bank NGO that salvages surplus food from producers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers for redistribution to the needy, spoke to New Straits Times, clarifying the actual food situation during Ramadan.
Image via hati.my
Operations director Hayati Ismail explained that hotels have learned from experience and now implement wastage prevention measures by getting people to pre-book their meals and live-cooking food during the buffet.
This means that 25 – 35% of daily food waste actually come from bazaars. Ramadan vendors tend to rely on selling pre-cooked meals or cook everything they brought with them hoping that they can sell as much as possible.
Image via Berita Harian
Ramadan bazaar traders do not plan how much to cook. They do not do any estimation or business projection.
When the food is unsold, the majority is thrown away, as opposed to hotels, which send surplus food to staff cafeterias,
Ms Hayati pointed out that there are a few bazaars that collaborate with the MY Save Food network to salvage leftovers in an effort to keep food wastage to a minimum, such as the bazaars in Putrajaya, Lembah Pantai, Pandan Indah and Kampung Baru. But bazaars elsewhere aren’t a part of this initiative.
Image via Sri Sutra Travel
There are thousands of bazaars in the Klang Valley alone. Getting volunteers during Ramadan to collect food is difficult.
On top of that, some food turns bad as early as 9pm. Food safety is the biggest challenge when it comes to the bazaars.
According to Hayati, surplus food given by hotels were fresh and had not been served. Food Aid Foundation does not take the leftovers from the buffet lines as they could pose health risks after being exposed to room temperature and people. This would be a bit difficult to achieve from food found at bazaars.
Image via New Straits Times
However, Hayati admits that there are some types of bazaar food that could be kept safely to be given to the needy, such as food items that are prepared on the spot like ayam percik or murtabak.
We ‘rescue’ food from hotels that are still in the back still kept in the warmer at 63°C. After the end of the day, unsold food would be packed and kept frozen. Food Aid teams will collect it once or twice a week.
We don’t collect the food on a daily basis because the amount is too little, merely 5kg to 10kg, so it is not viable from a logistics point of view and does not justify the cost. If we collect it by the end of the week, we’d get about 30kg to 100kg.
This practice is based on requirements set by the Health Ministry and also follows the standard operating procedures implemented by hotels. FYI, hotels collaborating with Food Aid Foundation include Bangi Golf Resort and Pullman Hotel and Resorts.
The hotels know us. We handle cooked food and we have the facilities. On top of that, we have signed indemnity agreements to protect our donors.
There’s a really simple way to fix this problem, really. Even though after fasting one whole day makes us feel like eating everything we see at the bazaar, we need to be more realistic and have some self-control.
In the meantime, Ramadan vendors should also come up with an effective way to keep their food items fresh and reusable for donating in the event they have leftover food not sold.