TWENTY poor families from PPR Lembah Subang in Petaling Jaya have started receiving food aid, once a week, under the #P105 initiative which kicked off on Sept 7.
Spearheaded by Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah and her volunteers, the programme is an effort to support the community, especially poor families.
One of its core objectives is to address the problem of malnutrition among children in Lembah Subang, said Maria.
At present, the team received food supply from the Food Aid Foundation.
The foundation is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that functions as a food bank. It gets manufacturers, distributors, wholesaler, retailers, companies and the public to donate surplus food and groceries.
The food supply is then collected and distributed to charitable or welfare homes, volunteer welfare organisations, refugee communities, poor families, the destitute and soup kitchens.
Maria said the new programme would benefit some 100 people in the community.
“This is our first step to address the malnutrition problem in PPR Lembah Subang.
“I welcome the public and private sectors to donate items such as milk powder, canned food and rice.
“We do not want money but only food items that we can pass to the needy families,” said Maria after distributing the first batch of supplies to residents.
She said fresh goods such as vegetables and eggs would enable the families to cook nutritious meals.
The project, Maria said would be monitored every quarterly to know the recipients’ progress.
“We have a group of volunteers from the medical background who have already carried out a research in Lembah Subang.
The research on 46 children in the community showed that 80% of them, between seven months and 18 years, were underweight and were not as tall as their peers growing in better environments.
“We picked 20 families from this group and will keep tabs on their progress.
“We hope the children will have a balanced diet,” said Maria who has plans to introduce skills-based workshops soon.
She said due to poverty, some of the older children had quit school to care for their younger siblings. There were also families who were unable to send their children to school because they could not afford the bus fare.
Maria said a family of eight, for example, relied on a household income of RM800.
Some other families have no income but only rely on zakat of RM500 they receive, and this puts a constraint on the parents to buy nutritious food for the family, she said.
The PPR Lembah Subang community was the worst poverty-stricken area in Petaling Jaya, said social worker Elaine Surin.
“I have worked with other PPRs and I have seen good progress over the years but this community is the worst.
“The people here are suffering financially and they do not see much hope in coming out of their situation,” she said.
Elaine said the food issue must first be tackled before other form of community empowerment was carried out.
She cited a case of a mother who served her 19-year old son only rice and a pinch of sardine.
“I happened to walk into their house and it was heartbreaking to see the teenager having just that for dinner.
“A flat can easily be occupied between eight to 15 people as they live with their parents and relatives.
“They cannot afford 15 eggs per meal. They always share and this leaves a lot of the growing children undernourished,” she said.
Elaine added that a family of eight could finish four bags of 10kg rice per month.
“We can only afford to select 20 families at this point for the programme. More are on our waiting list,” she said.
Elaine said among the ideal items for people to donate were 10kg bags of rice, 3kg mee hoon, egg trays, milk powder for babies and adults and anchovies.
Food Aid Foundation operations director Hayati Ismail said the poor were known to eat more carbohydrates such as rice and bread and rarely bought vegetable and fruits.
She said the issues of diabetes and obesity were more prevalent among the poor.
“Vegetables and fruits are expensive for them.
“They even feed their toddlers sugar water instead of milk. We have seen many toddlers with rotten teeth.
“The parents say they cannot afford milk powder. They may give one or two servings of milk but the rest will be sugar water,” Hayati said, adding that the foundation’s aim was to provide supplement food to the needy.
“The poor also lack information on nutritional eating. Carbohydrate keeps them full so they will eat porridge with salt, fry plain rice with tomato sauce or whatever they have.
“They eat canned sardine and eggs when they have extra money. However, they rarely buy items with fiber.”
Hayati added that the public could do its part to help these communities by coaching the children with their homework or carry out any form of fun educational activities.
“The short-term measure could be food supplement but the long-term plan is to empower them through education,” she said.
Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia (Proham) secretary-general Ivy Josiah said the Lembah Subang community, in particular, could do with affordable and accessible public transportation system in the long run.