Do you know the best temperature to store pineapples?

Shopkeepers in Lebanon do. (The answer is at the end)

Edward Johnson
Jun 4, 2019 · 3 min read

The World Food Programme (WFP) knows that in many contexts around the world, populations can be served better through markets than with in-kind food. In Lebanon, WFP’s supply chain unit works with 450 shops to remove market inefficiencies, improve access to shops, lower prices and improve shopping experiences. Those changes — made for all shoppers, not just recipients of WFP’s assistance — are the core of WFP’s retail engagement strategy.

Increasing purchasing power

By giving shops a mandatory price range, introducing them to preferred wholesalers where retailers aggregate demand to leverage negotiation power, and through a smartphone app — Dalili — which provides food prices in nearby shops, WFP is increasing the purchasing power of all customers visiting WFP-contracted shops. Those efforts were recognised in a recent price comparison study by leading global information company Nielsen, which found that WFP-contracted shops are 5.83 percent cheaper than non-contracted shops.

A day in the life of a WFP-field monitor, checking shops are up to standard. Photo: WFP/Edward Johnson

Using itemised data

Once those cheaper transactions are made, WFP collects sales data through the points of sale in almost all contracted shops in order to monitor consumer behaviour, track high demand items and monitor prices. A constant feedback loop to WFP allows rapid adjustments and real-time feedback for shopkeepers.

Developing the retail sector capacity for sustainability reasons

In addition to spot-checks where advice is given, WFP provides one-to-one capacity building visits to shops, encouraging managers to elevate their standards and increase their competitive advantage with the end goal of influencing their customer service standards. That is achieved by encouraging lower food prices, increasing hygiene and security, and proposing better quality products. Those changes remain for all customers and contribute to WFP’s long-term #ZeroHunger vision where food is more accessible to all.

Food safety

Finally, WFP runs a series of food safety courses for its 450 shop keepers and their staff. The objective is simple — to assist retailers to effectively manage their food in order to protect customers from ill health.

“Food safety is the most critical component of a retail strategy in many ways,” explains Mireille Makhlouf, WFP’s Retail Manager in Lebanon. “If we cannot protect the health and welfare of the people we serve, why are we giving them cash to buy food?”

A food safety training for shop keepers in Beirut. Photos: WFP/Ziad Rizkallah

The curriculum is varied, ranging from personal hygiene tips (regular hand washing), food contamination (avoiding soiling stock, discouraging an environment for rodents), defining storage areas (clean, dry sanitary conditions), proper labeling (there’s a difference between use-by dates and best-before dates), and controlling storage temperatures (not everything goes in a fridge at 4 degrees centigrade).

“If in doubt, throw it out,” is Mireille’s mantra.

Food-borne hazards can be microbiological, chemical or physical in nature and are often invisible to the plain eye: bacteria, viruses or pesticide residues are some examples. But, Mireille hopes that in her 450 shops, the risk of those hazards harming people are being diminished as a result of her courses.

There is a lofty goal behind the food safety courses — #ZeroHunger. To end hunger, all people need to have access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.

Read more about WFP’s work in Lebanon.

By the way — the optimal storage temperature for pineapples is between 10–13 degrees.

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