Food banks cleaned out leaving those truly in need with nothing

For the needy: Shop owner Rosidah Mansor stocking up a food bank with bags of essential items in Bayan Baru. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: With the emergence of the White Flag movement, more kind-hearted Malaysians are coming out to set up food banks.

Unfortunately, some food banks were met with abuse. Rations laid out for the needy were cleaned out in a short time, often by the same individuals.

Sundry store owner Rosidah Mansor started a food bank in March for the needy.

“The essentials ran out quickly and stocking up three times a day was not enough. So we started recording names and packed essentials like cooking oil, rice, noodles, eggs, flour and other rations in one big pack to give out.

“This is because we saw many people taking advantage of the food bank,” she said when met at her store in Sungai Ara.

Rosidah said they saw the same faces coming over and over again to take from the food bank.

“Some would come in a car of four or five people and each of them would leave with armfuls of supplies. Others would sweep all 10 bags of rice at one go.

“And when the really needy ones come, they find the racks empty.

“This is disheartening for people like us, my friends, and those who helped contribute and started this food bank.

“Our customers and nearby community groups drop essentials on our racks for the needy but the food bank was taken advantage of.

“Thus, we plead with those using the food bank to be more mindful of what they take. Please take only what you need so there is enough for those who come after you.

In Lebuh Tye Sin, restaurant manager Kelvin Quah, 35, created a station to give out necessities and free lunches daily.

He, too, hopes to see the truly needy come by for free essentials and meals.

“We started our programme earlier this month and most of the time, there is a staff member at the station as we want to ensure people take only what they need.

“We have people taking four to five sets of meals at once leaving the others in the queue with nothing.

“For those taking for their families, we do provide extra but we hope everyone will take only what they need,” he said.

At one time, they actually saw individuals arriving in a luxury car to grab the food.

“When we asked them about it, they said they were taking them for someone else.

“We want to provide for the needy with no questions asked and we hope people can help us.

“If food banks and free meal stations are to be sustainable, we need continuous manpower and funds,” said Quah.

At another food bank in Bayan Lepas, cafe owner Siti Nor Hidayah Mustafa, 33, said she was fortunate that the people in her community were sensible.

“We have had no issues so far. Only four to five people come to collect essentials daily and they all take what they need.

“As we have a close-knit community, I hope this practice will continue so that we are always able to help the needy,” she said.

Penang Community Care president Wendy Ang said elderly people who live alone had a tendency to sell extra food items for pocket money.

“They tend to do this because for them, it’s all about survival.

“Most of the money they receive from the Welfare Department will go to their rental.

“After receiving the rations, some of them will sell them to sundry shops at a lower price.

“We do not encourage this and we told them that the food given is meant for their own consumption.

“If they cannot cook at home, we will give them food like biscuits and instant noodles.

“We will give them a warning if we find out that they are still selling, we will stop giving food for a third-time offender,” she said yesterday.

Ang said her organisation had been giving food supplies to around 120 families since 2014.

“Prior to the MCO, we interviewed families who are genuinely in need.

“Due to the MCO, we cannot vet or screen new families who approach us so it is all based on trust and integrity.

“However, I have seen pictures of food items going to waste.

“I hope people do not abuse the kindness rendered to them and instead, make good use of the donations given to them,” she said.

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