I walk into a typical Bukhari restaurant the kind that are dotted all over Jeddah and ask for a quarter grilled chicken with a 5 SAR rice to go with it. Moments later I’m served a grilled chicken with sauces, some fresh veggies and a mound of rice!
While everything else was enough for one person the large serving size of the rice was definitely not. I dig my hands in trying to finish it to the best that I can but I soon realize that I will be leaving the restaurant with a good amount of rice left on my plate.
As I walk out I see others who have finished eating are worse off, they have larger quantities of rice left behind some of which are big enough for several people to feast on!
Now imagine how much food that one restaurant throws away on a daily basis.
This is a common sight for one to see, be it at a mandi restaurant, Bukhari one or even a wedding feast, where food is served on one plate (which is believed to increase brotherly affection) and ends up being wasted on unfathomable proportions.
A Saudi Gazette article published in June 2018 cited a report by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture saying that Saudi Arabia ranks number one in the world in wasting food.
The report also stated that the average Saudi wastes 250 kg of food on annual basis.
Speaking on the issue of food waste in the country the chairperson of the Khairat Charity Society Noora bint Abdulaziz Al Ajami said: “The overall daily quantity of food waste is sufficient to feed the whole population of Riyadh.”
— Enda Nasution ???????? (@enda) November 1, 2017
So what can these restaurants so to stop this?
- Decrease the portion of rice being served
- Stop serving in one big dish, which everyone will dig their hands into
- Have rice portions sold at various price points depending on their size
There have been some noticeable examples of what some NGOs and restaurants are doing that can be implemented across the country.
A restaurant in Riyadh went viral online because it started charging customers for leftovers. Similarly, a Saudi food bank called Etaam collects leftovers from restaurants and distributes it to the needy has significantly scaled its operations. Last year Dow Saudi Arabia Company partnered with Etaam to promote food waste reduction through an educational campaign in schools in the Eastern part of the country.
So yes, there is action being done by NGOs, restaurants and companies but we as the end consumers also have a major responsibility on our shoulders.
We have to demand to be served in individual plates in such restaurants and raise the seriousness of the issue on social media.
Because at the end of the day we are the consumers of these restaurants and what we demand they will eventually have to give into.