How two girls are tackling the food waste challenge in Karachi

Published: June 23, 2016
Nadeem and Hassan partnered with upscale restaurants in the city in an attempt to start a social movement PHOTO: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Nadeem and Hassan partnered with upscale restaurants in the city in an attempt to start a social movement PHOTO: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

KARACHI: It was in February this year, two friends, Zara Nadeem and Zehra Hassan, troubled by the difference in food consumption in Karachi – the rich having too much and the poor not having any – went about understanding the psychology of waste. With so much food wasted at buffet restaurants and at weddings, food that is good is often thrown away. In order to rectify this, the two girls put their heads together and devised a clever strategy.

Nadeem and Hassan partnered with some upscale restaurants in the city in an attempt to start a social movement. “The motivation came from the realisation that this is a situation that exists around us. The problem was how to act on this,” says Nadeem, who is a graduate from the Lahore University of Management Sciences and currently employed in a multinational. The two visited high-end restaurants located in different parts of the city and learnt people opt not to take the leftovers home. “It is like social suicide for them, something that is looked down upon,” shares Nadeem, adding people refuse to take parcels of food for which they pay despite insistence from the restaurant staff.


6 smart and easy tips to prevent food waste

“What we have is a very stupid problem,” asserts Hassan, an Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture graduate who is currently working for TCF, while talking about the gap that exists between the food supply and demand for food. “What we have tried to do is to mediate the gap between the excess supply and an overwhelming demand for food in the city,” she says.


Branding their boxes ‘Food For Thought’, they started a social movement by distributing these packages in restaurants. “So when customers say they do not want to pack leftovers, the food is put into these boxes and the customer is requested to give it to someone in need,” explains Nadeem. That is entrusting them with a responsibility. The reason these customers are asked to give away the box themselves is because Nadeem believes, this way they are spreading awareness about the disparity. “You have to involve people, only then can one expect them to follow [by example],” she adds.


Since people tend to become more philanthropic in Ramazan, the duo has become more active in expanding the reach of the campaign. Their target is various restaurants that offer buffet deals during the holy month. “When we learnt the number of people who can be fed with wasted food, we were very disturbed. Wastage from two to three restaurants can feed as many as 100 people easily,” shares Nadeem.

Combatting hunger: 61 million Pakistanis are food insecure

When talking about challenges they have faced thus far, Hassan feels they are more logistical in nature. “Following up with people and preserving the food so that it doesn’t go bad are some of the things we have to be extra careful about,” she mentions.


For Hassan and Nadeem, an ordinary day starts with their day job and by late afternoon they begin scouting for new locations to introduce their feeding Karachi campaign. Presently, their drive has moved to Ranchod Line, Azam Basti and recently Lyari. Besides keeping up with the generosity of the month, they are also calling out for people to donate money for rations (Rs1,500 per package comprising wheat, rice, daal mong, basin, sugar, salt, red pepper, turmeric, tea, oil and sherbet) and distributing these among people in different localities.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (7)

  • abc
    Jun 23, 2016 - 3:41PM

    Wow – hats off, ladies. Keep it up the good work. Would love to be part of this mission, and contribute in uplifting your work. Recommend

  • Sar
    Jun 23, 2016 - 5:05PM

    These are the people of Pakistan who are actually making a difference.Recommend

  • Cynic
    Jun 23, 2016 - 8:25PM

    What food waste Challenge?

    How do you convince someone who believes taking a parcel of leftover is ‘Social Suicide’ by changing the packaging of the parcel. They are still taking the parcel with them and would still be seen as committing ‘social suicide.’

    The assumption that leftover food at restaurants go to waste is false. The first in line to receive the leftovers are the staff at the restaurants and their acquaintances. The same restaurants also give out the food to the poor and needy.

    Gathering donations to provide food parcels is nothing new and there are organisations which maximize the value of donations due to years of experience and economies of scale.

    The biggest wastage of food happens at weddings and not restaurants. Kindly divert your energies towards the root of the problem.

    Best wishesRecommend

  • Ali S
    Jun 23, 2016 - 9:01PM

    Excellent and much-needed initiative. Should be extended to all upscale restaurants and especially buffet restaurants. Also superstores that simply throw away unsold expired or near-expired food – it should be donated before expiry. It needs to be taken nationwide – Karachi alone has 20 million people who could benefit hugely from this.Recommend

  • reply
    Jun 23, 2016 - 10:49PM

    They started the plan they seem fit. You think weddings are a problem. Go ahead and tackle the issue there instead of sitting on your couch criticizing people trying to make a difference.Recommend

  • Aaryan
    Jun 24, 2016 - 10:27PM

    These women come up with something original and all you can to is find a way to put it down? Why don’t you get off of your tush and do something useful?

    Bravo ladies, way to go. Recommend

  • syed & syed
    Jun 25, 2016 - 5:24AM

    Their holy mission be encouraged and more people to joinRecommend

More in Pakistan