‘Warriors’ rescue leftovers


Waste not: A team of food warriors repacking rescued food to be distributed for charity

PETALING JAYA: Their job description calls for rescuing leftovers and unsold food which are given to those who need it.From frozen meat to bread and pastries, buffet spreads and mixed rice, a social enterprise known as What a Waste (WaW) has been salvaging surplus food by repacking and giving them to the marginalised.

And WaW has gone from strength to strength.

What started out as a team of six core members has grown to the present force of 30 food warriors who are bent on rescuing food and feeding families.

“Every year, we hear of an increase in the amount of food waste, which accounts for 61% of waste in Malaysia and the high allocation used for waste management.

“On the other hand, hunger in Malaysia is still visible and the malnutrition rate of kids within B40 families is high, ” said Angela Tan, who founded WaW in 2018.

Tan’s partner Alvin Chen said WaW rescued and rechannelled over one million kilogrammes of food last year.

“It was a good culmination of 2020 when 14 meal sets were repurposed on Dec 31 from a pastry cafe consisting of lasagna, buns, cakes, cookies, coleslaw and drinks, all of which were given to 14 families from the SS13 and Angsana flats in Subang Jaya, ” he said.

During the movement control order period, one of its notable missions was rescuing 3,000 near-expiry ice-cream cones from popular ice-cream brands and delivering the sweet treat to underprivileged children and old folks homes.

“We also rescued some 22,000kg of expired frozen meat back in May and June last year.

“We distributed frozen turkey meat to Zoo Negara and beef and lamb to at least 20 animal shelters.

“Otherwise, these imported meat will end up in landfills. Imagine the damage it will do to our environment, ” he said.

Starting out as an anti-food waste movement, Chen said there were days when they would salvage even a single portion of surplus food because “a snack for you could be a meal for others”.

“From rescuing bread from pastry shops and small food and beverage outlets, we have progressed to rescuing food from large-scale events.

“We have grown into a one-stop food security platform trusted and supported by members of the public, ” he said.To ensure safe consumption, he said all food is weighed and documented at the point of rescue, immediately packed through a methodological process and sent to the nearest available beneficiary.

With many beneficiaries becoming jobless and needing food aid during the MCO period, Chen said the job got tougher for WaW.

“The Covid-19 pandemic put the brakes on everything, including our core activity of rescuing excess food from events.

“So we intensified our food rescue missions into daily feeding missions by advocating for partner cooks – consisting of home cooks and restaurant owners – to turn rescued groceries into wholesome food packs for the needy, ” he said.

Beneficiaries include B40 families, homeless folk, the unemployed, stranded foreigners and students, refugees, orphanages, homes for the handicapped and old folks, and also frontliners, Chen said.

Throughout the MCO period, both Tan and Chen made the deliveries themselves as they did not want to risk exposing any of the food warriors to the virus.

Chen said that throwing away food is tantamount to stealing from the tables of the poor.

“As we start the new year, we bring along our past and ongoing commitment to fight food waste and poverty-hunger through a sustainable approach.

“We will continue this battle and prevent good food from going to the landfills, ” he said.

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