The Egyptian Food Bank has received the prestigious Middle East Institute (MEI) Visionary Award for its exceptional efforts during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The organisation’s CEO Mohsen Sarhan received the award, with the ceremony considered the largest annual event organised by the MEI. The ceremony is held annually to honour visionaries, change-makers, and intellectual leaders at the regional level for their positive contributions in the political, economic, social, and cultural scene in the Middle East.
With its work system being adopted by the United Nations (UN) as a model for international emulation, the Egyptian Food Bank has exported its exceptional business model to 88 countries in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.
Daily News Egypt sat down with Sarhan, to find out more about the organisation’s work strategy.
Can you tell us more about the MEI award?
The MEI is one of the most prestigious awards in the Middle East, and has been received by Mohamed El-Erian, Zaha Hadid, and many other influential figures. The Egyptian Food Bank was the only Egyptian entity to be awarded in 2020, for its exceptional work in combating the aftermath of the novel coronavirus.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Egyptian Food Bank is a regional non-governmental organisation (NGO) working to support societies to face crises.
What was the organisation’s role in elevating the economic effects of COVID-19?
Over the course of two months, the bank has succeeded in supporting 12 million Egyptians in the middle of the pandemic, by distributing 1.5 million food boxes, in addition to 9 million hot meals to those who were negatively impacted.
This was part of the bank’s initiative to distribute 20,000 food boxes daily, during the holy month of Ramadan, to families across Egypt who were economically harmed by the repercussions of the pandemic. This initiative was held as a substitute to Mawaed Al-Rahman, which are often organised to offer the less fortunate daily Iftar (the meal Muslims eat to break their fast).
The bank launched the “Supporting Irregular workers” initiative to mitigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which directly affected many societal groups, especially daily workers, who were unable to maintain a steady source of income.
How much was the total value of the Egyptian Food Bank’s financial aid?
Since the beginning of 2020, the bank has provided approximately EGP 400m through its support programmes, aiding the less privileged who are in need.
How many beneficiaries are in your programmes?
Up to May 2020, the bank’s beneficiaries were identified as 12 million individuals.
We are currently working on an ambitious plan to reach areas along Egypt’s border areas that lack any support from organisations, to provide them with the fundamental survival needs that the bank offers.
What are the Egyptian Food Bank’s sources of funding?
A total of 80% of our finance comes from Zakat [annual Islamic charity donations], whilst the other 20% of funds come through corporate entity funding as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the Egyptian market.
How many companies have cooperated with the Egyptian Food Bank?
This year, we were fortunate to garner the support of more than 100 companies, some of which include: PepsiCo; Orange; Vodafone; Etisalat; and most of the banks working in the Egyptian market. They have put their trust in us to reach the beneficiaries.
These companies contributed an average of EGP 100m to support the bank’s programmes, which are, but not limited to, the monthly feeding programme, the school feeding programme and the Sacrifice Voucher programme.
The bank provides food to less fortunate families across Egypt, with about 150,000 families receiving aid each month. On the other hand, the school feeding programme supports 44 schools in 10 governorates, providing students with 40,000 hot meals daily. Additionally, there is also the Eid El-Adha ‘Sacrifice Voucher’ programme, which saw 8,000 calves sacrificed inside and outside Egypt in 2020.
What kind of assistance do you provide outside Egypt?
We have offered aid to those affected by national crises or disasters, whether in Egypt or not. Therefore, in collaboration with Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity, we have offered assistance in Lebanon and Sudan during the global health crisis.