September 20, 2017

PETALING JAYA: One man's trash is another man's treasure. This adage is proven true with the work done by the Food Aid Foundation (FAF) in its effort to ensure no Malaysians go to bed with an empty stomach.

Rather that seeing food wastage as a problem, FAF – the first ever food bank in Malaysia – saw a silver lining to the predicament by treating it as an opportunity to provide food to an impoverished group.

FAF director of operations Hayati Ismail said as a food bank, they collected halal, edible but surplus food and groceries from manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers and distributed them to the needy.

“From our studies, we know that there are pockets of unused food within the industry that can most certainly be put to good use and benefit the needy,” Hayati told theSun recently.

Hayati said recent statistics revealed that Malaysians, on average, contributed 15,000 tonnes of food waste daily to landfills, with 3,000 tonnes of it categorised as edible.

Blessed with abundance of food, Hayati said Malaysians tend to forget that there were people who had not enough to fill their stomach due to poverty.

“In Malaysia, we have not seen people waiting at dumpster or behind restaurant to collect food. Therefore, we assume everyone has enough to eat,” she said.

FAF was set up in June 2013. Its founder Rick Chee and co-founder Mohamad Faisal Ghazali had planned the project for six years before launching the initiative.

Planning included studying how such banks were run overseas and how to implement the idea in a Malaysian setting.

Hayati said as both had been involved in the food and beverages industry previously, they saw how much edible food was wasted daily.

“Food products usually collected by FAF are those that are out of specification, close to expiry, incorrect labelling, damaged packaging, discontinued promotional products as well as excess stock and customer returns,” she said.

Hayati said the usual food collected by FAF comprised three categories – non-perishable food, uncooked raw food and surplus cooked food.

She said FAF had a lineup of trained employees in food preparation, as well as fully equipped storage and kitchen, to ensure the quality of food it distributed.

“For frozen food, the shelf life is longer. We use our chiller truck to collect frozen and cooked food from hotels to ensure the food's safety,” she explained.

“For non-perishable items, the urgency of delivery depends on the expiry date. Our operations are based on a first in, first out system,” she added.

Hayati said FAF also established partnership with several food manufacturers, distributors, hotels and individual donors to ensure the ongoing supply of food to the needy.

The gathered food would then be channelled to welfare and charity organisations such as orphanages, elderly homes, food distribution centres and refugee schools.

With 140 welfare organisations as beneficiary to FAF's initiative, Hayati noted that the food demand was always higher than what the team usually salvaged and collected.

“The increase of price of goods has affected many people and therefore we foresee an increase of requests for food aid,” she said.

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