x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Abu Dhabi's 'little chefs' campaign against food wastage

The youngsters spread the message against food waste and visit markets to promote organic and locally grown food to mark World Environment Day.

Harika Korrapati, 15, from the Emirates Future International Academy, leads a group of students on a tour of LuLu Hypermarket at Al Wahda Mall looking for organic foods part of World Environment Day yesterday. They were among 50 pupils taking part. Sammy Dallal / The National
Harika Korrapati, 15, from the Emirates Future International Academy, leads a group of students on a tour of LuLu Hypermarket at Al Wahda Mall looking for organic foods part of World Environment Day yesterday. They were among 50 pupils taking part. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // Schoolgirl Athira took steps towards saving the environment yesterday when she marched with her classmates to mark World Environment Day.

Athira, 15, was one of 50 pupils from the Emirates Future International Academy in Abu Dhabi who dressed as chefs to promote a campaign against food waste.

“I feel that the environment is getting degraded and people are polluting it,” she said.

“We should care for our future generations when they are going to grow up because each minute babies are born, and each second we are polluting the environment more and more. Today is a step towards saving it.”

The campaign, which began yesterday, was organised by the Abu Dhabi social-responsibility group Nahtam, the UN Environmental Programme, the Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care, Abu Dhabi Municipality and LuLu Hypermarkets.

Pupils aged 10 to 15 marched at Khalidiyah and Al Wahda malls yesterday and will do the same at Madinat Zayed and Mushrif malls today.

“The initiative is good because it’s making people aware of what we should do for our future, especially with food waste,” said Sameen, 15.

“Many people go to bed without food and we go to food courts, eat and waste it like that, and it’s not good. We should save a little and eat only what we need.”

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year and more than 22,000 children die of hunger every day.

“I used to eat a lot and waste a lot,” said Heba, 14. “But now I made up my mind that I won’t waste it any more. I’m happy to be able to do this for the environment.”

The campaign also aims to educate residents on the importance of a more organic lifestyle.

“Chemicals in food affect our health and environment and people are not well aware of it,” said George Itty, chief executive of Nahtam. “Organic is beneficial and it’s still in the initial stages in the UAE, so it needs a lot of work.”

Greenhouses are expected to be set up in malls across Abu Dhabi by the end of the month. They will display 12 items, including beef tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, two types of lettuce and cucumbers from the Zayed Higher Organisation.

“We’re bringing greenhouses to the malls to show how it grows and how it works,” Mr Itty said. “We want to educate the people that it’s possible to grow food here.”

He also wants more residents to buy local food.

“Bringing food from abroad means a lot of carbon footprint with transportation, so it has to be organic and locally produced,” he said.

With aprons and hats carrying slogans such as “Save. Do not waste food”, “Think Organic”, and “Eat locally produced organic vegetables” in Arabic and English, the pupils seemed convinced.

“When we pollute the environment, the ozone gets depleted and we get affected,” said Harika, 15. “We need to make people more aware of it and how to save food and improve our environment.”

Isabelle Le Bon, co-founder of Nahtam, said she hoped the children would become ambassadors.

“If each child does what is written on their apron, it will make a big difference,” she said. “So when you next go shopping, think before you buy something because if it’s available from here, buy it local.”

cmalek@thenational.ae