Pakistani startup helps Afghans overcome food shortage

LAHORE (Monitoring Desk): Rizq, a Lahore-based startup, along with a consortium of NGOs and private companies, has arranged food packs for Afghan families who are in dire need of aid.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Musa Aamir, 27, co-founder of Rizq, said: “Bags of rations are being sent to Afghanistan that will be helping almost 2,000 Afghan families with essential household items and dry food.”

Highlighting the importance of food on World Food Day, being observed on October 16, he said: “We want to highlight this horrible ratio of food wastage which is happening in our third world countries. Almost 36 million tonnes are wasted every year in Pakistan. And that is about 40% of the food.”

“And in a country like Pakistan which is food insecure and fighting malnourishment, this is nothing less than a crime,” Aamir said.

According to the 2020 Global Hunger Index, Pakistan ranks 88 out of the 107 countries. With a score of 24.6, it has a level of hunger that is serious.

“We started this as our university project in which we were collecting leftover food from weddings and restaurants and after repacking it, we distributed that amongst the needy people. Later on, we continued and today we have expanded to 23 cities in Pakistan. And also helping our neighbouring countries,” said Aamir.

Last month, Rizq saved more than 50,000 kilogrammes (110,230 pounds) of excess food, feeding over 150,000 people.

“This is not just about food distribution. We have created platforms where donors, NGOs, and the people who need our help can come together. Every month, we release a report of food wastage to highlight the importance of food and to tell people how they can help others who are sleeping hungry at night,” he said, explaining how the group expanded.

Sustainable Development Goal 2

Rizq is the only organisation in Pakistan working on Sustainable Development Goal number 2 to help people all over the world. One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015, Sustainable Development Goal 2 aims to achieve “zero hunger”.

“As of today, we have prepared more than 9.2 million meals and saved 800,000 kilogrammes (1.7 million pounds) of food with the help of almost 4,000 donors, 70 partner companies, and 30 NGO partners. Our next goal is to help our brothers and sisters in conflict zones, including Yemen and Syria,” said Aamir.

In 2018, a Global Food Security report prepared by the US National Intelligence Council said: “Declining food security will almost certainly contribute to social disruptions and political instability.”

Food regulations

Salman Sufi, who runs a foundation aiming at women empowerment, said: “Keeping in mind the issue of food shortage, we have started a new venture called The Pasticceria which is an all-women-led initiative, and we do not waste any food. The food is only prepared on pre-orders and also in front of customers so they get to know what ingredients are being used and no extra orders or pre-cooked food would be left as it creates food wastage.”

The Punjab Food Authority first launched its policy in 2018, in which all the rules and regulations regarding food were detailed.

Umer Tanveer Butt, chairman of the authority, said: “Most of the food wastage happens at weddings and restaurants which offer buffet and high teas with so many dishes. We have regulated them to take pre-reservations so they can cook the food according to the need of their customers.”

The authority is also working to educate food safety officers into a skilled force by providing them training locally and abroad.

“Our main goal is to prevent food wastage. We are also training our officers in the hygiene of food being served to people. We can eradicate hunger all around the globe if people start initiatives like Rizq to share meals,” said Butt.

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