Saturday June 22, 2024

‘Our strength is safe and nutritious food; one of our biggest challenges is food wastage’

By Oonib Azam
January 18, 2021

After deciding to repay the country he belongs to, Imran Nasrullah searched for years how exactly to achieve this goal — until a video clip doing the rounds on social media and messaging apps showed him the way.

Some five years ago, he received a clip showing a small group of Rizq Trust men collecting

excess food from the Monal Restaurant in Islamabad, recycling it and then distributing it among the low-income neighbourhoods of the capital.

Feeling as if his prayers had been answered, Nasrullah, country president for Cargill Pakistan, decided to reach out to them. “That quest took me to their home,” he said. “Our strength is food, our biggest challenge is food wastage,” he lamented, and pointed out that while the country is full of resources, “around 100 million people in Pakistan are food insecure”.

He admitted that it took him three years to build trust in the Rizq Trust’s model to be translated for Karachi. Initially, he asked the trust’s young team for a feasibility report mentioning the city’s most food insecure areas, which, according to them, turned out to be Lyari. Nasrullah had little to argue.

A few days ago, Cargill finally announced teaming up with the Rizq Trust for the shared goal of ending hunger in Pakistan by setting up a food bank network. Headquartered in the US, Cargill is a privately held global food corporation that had started its operations in Pakistan in 1984 and is now one of the largest importers of soya bean and palm products.

The groundbreaking for the first-ever Cargill Rizq Bank was held in Lyari. The Rizq-Cargill ecosystem intends to work towards making Lyari a food secure neighbourhood by reducing food wastage. This should be able to serve about 200,000 meals in the community annually.

Nasrullah said that before properly launching their services there, they had worked hand in hand over the past three years for food ration distribution during the lockdown, for donations during Ramazan and for relief works after various catastrophes, all the while working on their coveted ecosystem for a sustainable philanthropy project.

“We have tested them [the Rizq Trust] over time,” he said, adding that his company had sponsored the trust’s team to attend a Global Food Summit in London. “They did very well there and impressed people.”

After Lyari’s feasibility study, it emerged that it wasn’t easy to enter the town, especially for the Lahore-based team of the Rizq Trust, without the support of a local partner. It was then that the Kiran Foundation stepped in.

When Nasrullah heard how the foundation had worked at grassroots level, their morale as well as their confidence in the programme saw a boost, and they were sure that something could really be done about the food insecurity in the city.

The Rizq Bank will offer four key services to help eradicate food insecurity and end hunger in slum communities across the country: Rizq Daig for food distribution within the community, Rizq Ration for identifying and delivering monthly food supplies to food insecure families and establishing a community centre, Rizq Bachao for collecting, storing and distributing excess food to low-income families, and Rizq Future Generation Programme for mobilising students to support activities of zero waste and zero hunger.

“Charity can’t function until it’s sustainable,” said Nasrullah, adding that for the proper management of the distribution of excess food, they had taken companies providing ride-hailing services on board.

Moreover, 50,000 houses will be surveyed based on their income and issued smart cards. He roughly explained that a household with an income of Rs5,000 can get a beef or chicken steak for Rs100, or someone with an income of Rs10,000 can get it for Rs200 or Rs300.

“We want to keep their dignity intact,” he said, adding that all the information of such a household will be available on the smart card issued to them.

As for their Sasta Kitchen programme, Nasrullah said they have cooking oil companies as customers whom they have asked to provide their products to these households on subsidised rates.

He added that cloud food banking will facilitate their Sasta Kitchen programme through digital technology and provide more opportunities to those who want to help out. For all these surveys that need to be done, students will be taken on board. In Lahore and Islamabad, the Alliance for Students Against Poverty has been formed to conduct household surveys and neighbourhood assessments.

Nasrullah said that once established in Lyari, this model will be replicated at key locations across the country. This will serve as a blueprint for stakeholders in the food ecosystem to come together and create self-sustaining communities.

In the second phase, the programme will progress towards setting up the Rizq Xchange, a collaborative that will mobilise resources through a network of Rizq Banks.

The Rizq Xchange is enabled by the Share Rizq platform, a cloud food banking technology that connects people who want to donate food with distributors that are providing food to beneficiaries in real time.

Advancing their corporate purpose of nourishing communities in a safe, responsible and sustainable way, Cargill has contributed seed funding and will assist Rizq with technical advisory services to efficiently create and run the food bank operations.

Cargill employees will also engage as volunteers at the Cargill Rizq Bank. Rizq will manage the on-ground deployment and operations of this innovative model. They will also provide the overall strategy for the deployment of the Cargill Rizq Bank and the Rizq Xchange as part of this initiative.

“Around 100 million people in Pakistan continue to face food insecurity, which is about 50 per cent of the total population. Being an agriculturally resource-rich country, such prevalence of hunger is unnecessary and unacceptable,” said Nasrullah.

“This initiative is in line with our global commitment to fight hunger and curb the menace of malnutrition in countries where we operate. We are proud to partner with Rizq for this initiative and take this mission forward.”

Rizq Trust co-founder and CEO Qasim Javaid Khan said Pakistan is one of the richest breadbaskets in the world, yet it continues to struggle to sustain itself. “Such prevalence of hunger despite the abundance of resources highlights stark issues in our food system and the reasons due to which such issues come to exist,” he pointed out.

“Any resolve to end hunger not only needs to be systemic but also, more importantly, needs to be based on human values. We are proud that a partner like Cargill has come on board and is helping us in our mission to create a hunger-free Pakistan.”