PETALING JAYA: From young, entrepreneur Clara Wan Li Shan’s mother has always told her not to waste food because it can easily feed others in need.
Decades passed and her mother’s advice has inspired Wan to open one of the first surplus food markets and cafes in the country – Graze Market and Graze Eatery.
Registered under Saving Graze Sdn Bhd, Graze Market sells imperfect fruits and veggies that still taste fresh and tasty to cook and enjoy with family and friends, Wan said.
“Our fruits and veggies are imperfect for minor external reasons such as they might be too small or big, crooked in shape, have colour or scarring issues.
“But they still taste fresh. We buy them from farmers because they would otherwise be disposed of which is a big waste.
“It is estimated that farmers use some 30% of their income to plant these crops in their farms,” said Wan, 36, who once worked at a non-governmental organisation which helps low income communities.
Her team of nine employees will contact farmers everyday and ask what imperfect produce has to be discarded, so that they can buy them at discounted rates, bring them back to their market and sell them at affordable prices to the public.
“Our mission is to reduce food waste and provide affordable, premium and healthy food for the people,” she said.
Graze Market also sells their own signature items processed from surplus fruits and veggies to extend their shelf life.
“Our Green Curry Paste is made of surplus chili padi while our Steamboat Chili is made of red chili.
“We also sell strawberry jam, peach jam and orange marmalade. Our best seller Pesto Sauce is made from excess coriander. All these items are sold from RM11 to RM23 at both our market and cafe,” she said.
In March this year, Wan and her team took it one step further and opened Graze Eatery cafe which serves mouth-watering dishes made from surplus ingredients.
Graze Market co-founder Shirley Chan Xue Li, 37, said the cafe gives surplus food a second chance by cooking and serving them in the best way possible.
“Our team of experienced cooks serve Western and Asian fusion dishes that are highly praised by customers.
“Most people say they are incredibly yummy and didn’t even realise they were made from surplus ingredients,” she said.
Chan added that their best selling dish Pesto Spaghetti, from RM18 to RM20, is made from Pesto Sauce and can be eaten with meat, seafood or vegetables.
“It’s super tasty and gives a chance for the people to support local farmers and marginalised communities,” said Chan, who helped to set up Saving Graze with B40 groups in mind.
Saving Graze has supported 45 farmers and distributors by giving back about RM1.6mil in purchases.
It has also provided food aid to more than 8,000 beneficiaries from B40 communities, children and senior citizen homes, refugee groups, persons with disabilities and foreign workers.
A recipient of the food nutrition programme, Nur Sharzi Bashar, 40, said her third child loves eating fruits, vegetables and meat, ever since he was encouraged to eat them during the programme.
“My third child’s weight, body mass index and general health improved dramatically after receiving nutritious food aid from Saving Graze.
“The feedback from other families have also been positive as they have benefitted tremendously,” said Nur Sharzi, who sells street food for a living.
Nur Sharzi was also a beneficiary of the group’s Gerai-Up Programme which assists 15 women from three B40 communities in their food and beverage business through a grant worth RM11,000.
“With the grant and business training I received, I have been able to open two stalls in Lembah Subang and Bukit Cherakah which have been profitable in general.
“I owe it all to Clara and Shirley for helping me to open my business and feed my children,” she said.
When asked what future goals await Saving Graze and her team, Wan said she wants to expand the business abroad and be recognised as Malaysia’s No.1 brand that promotes food surplus as a means to end food waste.
“This is my mini solution to the bigger problem of food waste that requires support from many people and stakeholders.
“And I do it because my mum taught me to never waste food on your plate,” Wan said.
For its efforts, Graze Market is named as one of the 10 winners of the Star Golden Hearts Award 2023.