Growing up in a community where impoverishment is constantly hiking, young pharmacist Menna Shahin found herself driven by the urge of digging deep to what is beyond temporary assistance to the less-privileged in Egypt.
According to the report The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), 821 million people suffer from hunger.
Spending her life with Rotary international organization for humanitarian services, Shahin discovered people’s severe need of well-balanced meals. In an attempt to solve the issue, starting from Egypt, she established “Tekeya”.
Tekeya is a mobile application that connects hotels, restaurants, and food suppliers with non-governmental and charity organisations that are responsible for distributing food to families in underprivileged areas.
In the Egyptian culture, Tekeya is a building that is a part of the complexes known to be introduced at the Ottoman Empire era. It is a place full of long tables covered in various sorts of food and drink for students, foreigners, and people that have nowhere to eat or sleep.
It was usually an inseparable part of structures that contained schools and mosques in order to provide a complete chain of a well-living .
Astonished by the amount of food wasted by hotels, restaurants, and pastry shops, Shahin aims to reduce the quantity of wasted edible food that ends up in trash by actually providing it to those who need it.
“I believe this is an idea that pops up in anyone’s mind. Seeing numerous amounts of good quality, tasty food ending up in trash, knowing that there are people who are in serious need of it may lead one to find a way to deliver this food to them,” Shahin told Daily News Egypt.
According to the FAO, about one third of global food production, which is around 30 to 40%, is lost or wasted annually.
From her point of view, food charity campaigns do not provide those people with a permanent life-changing solution.
“We need to stop wasting food, while other might die out of not having it,” she firmly pointed out.
Shahin believes that thorough the application, she does not only solve one of the country’s most critical struggles, but also changes people’s mindsets.
“One of the main struggles that face us at Tekaya is to change the beliefs that many Egyptians have regarding food recycling. At the beginning, many restaurants that we reached out to refused to cooperate, fearing that they would build a reputation of having extra food due to their lack of customers,” Shahin explained.
Other than connecting food suppliers to charity organisations across the country, the application offers restaurants the option to offer the remains of their fresh cooked food every night. The hope is that these meals, which are just as good in quality and in portions as the served meals, are sold at a lower price in order to increase their accessibility to low income people. Yet, Shahin stated that many restaurants refuse this initiative as well.
“Many of the pastry shops end up every day with dozens of untouched cakes. There are many bakeries that can participate through the application to either offer discounted or free goods to the underprivileged,” Menna explained.
Within six months of the application’s launch, Menna successfully managed to have fixed deals with NGOs, orphanages, and charity organisations that distributed the food of eight hotels in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Aswan, and Sharqiya governorates.
“When I launched the application by the end of March, the plan was more of having a prototype to test the market. Yet, the huge success it received within just a few months, and the support it got was never expected to be this large, forcing me to update the application almost every two weeks,” she asserted.
Menna is currently working on expanding the application to cover all governorates, as a step towards regional expansion.