80% of the UAE’s lower-income communities are expected to be fed through the partnership by the end of 2024
UAE-based circular economy platform, The Surpluss has joined forces with Food-ATM, a mission-driven social enterprise that provides meals for low-income members of society from as low as 3 AED per meal.
The Surpluss offers a digital ecosystem where businesses of all sizes can share their surplus resources, helping them make a real impact towards climate change efforts, with an added financial benefit. By providing Food-ATM free access to the platform, The Surpluss is empowering them to find valuable synergies with FMCG retailers, distributors, and vendors who have excess food stock. These synergies mean Food-ATM can receive donations or purchase surplus produce, such as vegetables and pulses, at affordable bulk rates to serve more people. Having access to different vendors also allows them to become more creative with their menus while driving costs down.
Wasted food accounts for 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally. In this context, a long-term partnership between The Surpluss and Food-ATM addresses two critical challenges. Firstly, it provides consistent and affordable access to high-quality food for low-income members of society. Secondly, it reduces the amount of food sent to landfill from participating vendors and encourages the UAE’s private sector to strengthen their response to the growing concerns around food security.
The new partnership follows a successful pilot initiative in Ajman. Within one week of replacing their previous commodities with those sourced via The Surpluss synergies, Food-ATM created 2800 affordable and innovative meals using less than 150kg of excess vegetables. More vendors were onboarded onto the platform when they saw the value of the pilot scheme, and synergies are now planned with well-known local manufacturers who are providing special discounts on fresh produce, such as milk.
The Surpluss Founder, Rana Hajirasouli, said: “the pilot synergies were important to understand the logistical and technical challenges from both sides. As a HAACP-certified business, Food-ATM maintains a high standard of ingredients. Similarly, the vendors have local regulations to comply with for waste management. Near-expiry foods have around 15 days before they are considered non-consumable, so we learnt we need to work fast enabling both businesses to reap the maximum benefits.”
Explaining more about the overall goal of the partnership, Rana added: “many companies think sustainability is complex and expensive. We hope that by disrupting practices around food waste in this instance, we can help companies become more sustainable and demonstrate the financial benefit too. When they sell their surplus food stock at discounted prices, they can recoup some of their purchase costs; or, by opting to donate it, they can reduce their waste management costs – either way, there’s a clear financial case.”
Food-ATM Founder, Ayesha Khan, said: “we soon saw endless possibilities during our first synergy with Pakistan Supermarket as part of the pilot. We sourced excess spinach cuts from them, which were used to feed 400 people every day. This highlights the huge potential for redirecting food waste on a national level, and we wouldn’t have known these produce items were on the market if we hadn’t used the tool.
“Through the partnership, we expect to feed 80% of the lower-income communities in the UAE (slightly more than 3 million people) by the end of 2024. I hope we can encourage new organisations to change the way they view wastage. We are looking forward to more synergies with companies who want to donate or provide competitive bulk rates for staples that can be converted into lovingly prepared meals.”
All types of companies can benefit from supporting one another using circular practices. Outside of food and physical materials, many resources can be shared on The Surpluss including space, logistics services, production waste, knowledge, and time. The digital tool acknowledges that while optimisation and resource productivity are important, human connection and collaboration are fundamental to fighting climate change.