GEORGE TOWN: Malaysians are just too wasteful – throwing away about 15,000 tonnes of excess food every day. But this will not be an utter waste soon.
Plans are afoot to avoid such perfectly edible food from going to the landfills. Instead, it will provide sustenance for the underprivileged, arrest methane emissions and slash carbon footprint.
Called the Malaysia Food Bank Foundation, it will be an extensive network of hypermarkets, hotels, food producers and volunteers to make sure that excess food – from fruits and vegetables to bread and even a five-star resort’s mutton curry – will go to the poor.
Modelled after Penang’s successful Mutiara Food Bank, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said his ministry was even planning to table a “Good Samaritan law” to regulate the collection, preparation and distribution of excess food.
“It is about delivering cooked food to the poor daily. Food takes up about 30% of our living expenses so for poor families, the food bank will be a blessing,” said Saifuddin, adding that the recipients would be households earning less than RM900 a month.
He said the programme would roll out nationwide starting next month.
By the end of next year, he hopes his ministry is ready to table the proposed law in Parliament.
Saifuddin is also the founder of Mutiara Food Bank, which he started in May last year when he was strategic adviser to the Chief Minister’s Office.
A key feature of Mutiara Food Bank’s central kitchen in Penang’s Caring Society Complex is the presence of volunteer chefs from Penang Chefs Association who will inspect cooked excess food delivered from resorts and hotels.
“The chefs will reheat or blend the various deliveries into meals, which are delivered every day to the poor throughout the state.
“The deliveries also include excess food such as bread, fruits and vegetables from hypermarkets,” Saifuddin said.
His ministry is now working on duplicating the success of Mutiara Food Bank in other states.
Mutiara Food Bank chairman Phee Boon Poh, who is also state Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman, said the movement was now in a new phase of making the best use of excess food by using it as feed for black soldier fly larvae production.
“When we receive perishable excess food that is no longer fit for human consumption, we don’t want to just throw them away. We plan to use it to breed black soldier fly larvae, which are high protein additives for livestock feed including chickens and fish,” he said.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who represented Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in launching Malaysia Food Bank Foundation, said since Mutiara Food Bank was formed, the state had collected and distributed 321 tonnes of excess food to the poor.
“The amount of bread alone was 87 tonnes, all perfectly edible that would have been sent to the landfill otherwise.
“If we value all that food at RM5 per kilo, that means we gave away RM1.605mil worth of food to 31,429 families,” he said, adding that the pilot funding for Mutiara Food Bank was RM600,000.