Building community resilience through food security


Heineken Cares worked with the Make It Right Movement, a CSR initiative by Brickfields Asia College, last year.

AS people across the globe come together via concerted efforts to heal from the wounds caused by Covid-19, navigating a path to the post-pandemic future remains challenging for all segments of society – particularly for the B40 and underprivileged communities that suffered from loss of income during the multiple lockdowns, as well as the various economic and social restrictions.

To make matters worse, economic uncertainties have wrought havoc on industries and businesses, leading to the loss of countless jobs, with many left struggling to fend for themselves and put food on the table.

The silver lining in the cloud, however, was the community spirit that prevailed in the face of adversity.

As Charles Dickens wrote in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

And indeed, so it was. The pandemic brought its fair share of adverse impacts felt worldwide, but it also saw Malaysians – both individuals and corporations – coming together to help those affected.

For Heineken Malaysia Bhd (Heineken Malaysia), it reached out with a helping hand by launching the Heineken Cares community food aid programme in July 2021, on the back of the ‘Bendera Putih’ movement.

In collaboration with eight non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community organisations, the brewer delivered over 250,000 meals to vulnerable communities across the nation for a six-month period until December last year.

Heineken Cares reached out a helping hand to local communities by providing food aid from July to December period last year.Heineken Cares reached out a helping hand to local communities by providing food aid from July to December period last year.

That said, even as Malaysia transitions to the recovery phase, new challenges have emerged. Food security is increasingly becoming a major concern, amidst the decrease in employment opportunities, coupled with a lack of precautionary savings among households.

With escalating food prices resulting from inflation, more than half of Malaysian households – as revealed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) – are concerned about their ability to feed and support their families.

In response to this shifting landscape, Heineken Malaysia is answering the call by not only bringing back its Heineken Cares programme, but also aiming for lasting impact.

Once again joining hands with NGOs and community partners, the programme has a renewed mission to build community resilience through long-term food security for communities in need.

Heineken Malaysia corporate affairs and legal director Renuka Indrarajah said, “As part of our social sustainability commitment, we aim to make a positive impact for Malaysian communities.

“This year, we want to move beyond providing short-term relief to communities in need and take it a step further by empowering local communities to start and maintain a sustainable food supply.

“The NGOs and community partners we collaborate with will be building small scale community farms in both urban and rural localities. In suitable areas, we will also leverage rainwater harvesting to support these farming systems with a sustainable source of water.”

Heineken Cares also connects employee wellness with a community purpose. One way the brewer does this is by converting the number of steps employees take into a target number of meals for communities.

In 2021, for every 1,000 steps an employee made, the Heineken Cares programme delivered one meal to someone in need.

But Heineken Malaysia is looking to continue the laudable initiative, as it will announce a new target at the official launch of the programme this year.

“With Heineken Cares, every step counts and every meal matters.

“Through the initiative, not only are we empowering local communities, we are also providing our employees with a greater sense of purpose, as their commitment to living a healthier lifestyle would result in real impact towards improving the lives of communities in need.

“This year, we will also launch an employee volunteerism programme to give our people opportunities to support the efforts of our NGO partners. We tell our people that our business cannot thrive unless the communities we operate in thrive also,” she added.

Amongst the seven NGOs and community partners who will be coming onboard to support the Heineken Cares programme in 2022 are PWD Smart Farmability, EPIC and Soroptimist International Malaysia.

Dr Tang (right) with the PWD Smart Farmability satellite farmDr Tang (right) with the PWD Smart Farmability satellite farm

PWD Smart Farmability

PWD Smart Farmability founder Dr Billy Tang said, “Our partnership with Heineken Malaysia has always been fruitful! Last year, PWD Smart Farmability had the opportunity to be a part of Heineken Cares, where we distributed ethically farmed organic fish and vegetables to orphanages, hospitals, as well as many other affected communities during the prolonged lockdown.

“This year, we are proud to be able to continue the good work of providing nutritious fish protein and nutrient-dense vegetables to communities in need.”

Through the partnership, it is planning to build satellite farms for welfare centres in seven regions in Peninsular Malaysia.

By setting up the farms, these communities can now enjoy fresh, organic and nutritious meat and vegetables, even without agricultural kntowledge.

“We know that by joining forces with Heineken Cares, we will surely be able to go beyond and achieve so much more,” he added.

Heineken Cares and EPIC are uniting again to further improve the Orang Asli’s livelihood.Heineken Cares and EPIC are uniting again to further improve the Orang Asli’s livelihood.

EPIC

Meanwhile, EPIC founder John-Son Oei pointed out that Malaysia’s prolonged lockdowns in the past few years revealed the need to support vulnerable communities, especially in establishing food security among the Orang Asli.

He shared, “This year, we are grateful to receive support from Heineken Malaysia through the Heineken Cares programme once again.

“We hope to further improve the Orang Asli’s livelihood, by channelling the funds into providing sustainable water supply and farming programmes to the communities.”

These include Orang Asli communities in Kampung Orang Asli Gurney and Kampung Orang Asli Sg Kelubi in Hulu Selangor.

“In turn, our initiatives will help the communities adapt to the unpredictable environment, as our nation goes through the recovery phase. EPIC looks forward to working together with the Heineken Malaysia team to maximise the impact of this fund,” he enthused.

(from left) Soroptimist International’s Dr Saradha Narayanan, EPIC’s Oei and Heineken Malaysia’s Renuka.(from left) Soroptimist International’s Dr Saradha Narayanan, EPIC’s Oei and Heineken Malaysia’s Renuka.

Soroptimist International

Dr Saradha Narayanan, the assistant programme director 2 for Soroptomist International South East Asia Pacific, chimed in and shared the global volunteer organisation’s positive experience working with Heineken Malaysia since 2018 to transform the lives of underprivileged communities.

She said, “Through our long-term partnership, we successfully channelled clean water to rural communities in Sabah.

At the height of the pandemic, Soroptimist International Damansara partnered with Heineken Cares to deliver food aid to the B40 communities in Kampung Jawa, Klang.”

In the next phase of this project, Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia, together with Heineken Cares, will be providing alternative water systems and organic farms in Long Tanyit, Belaga, Sarawak and Kg Gana, Kota Marudu, Sabah.

“Apart from that, we are also looking into training programmes and capacity development that will empower women from these villages to make a living from the sales of home-grown vegetables,” she added.

Through these collaborations, Heineken Malaysia aims to create and sustain real positive impact for local communities in need. The Heineken Cares programme is administered by Spark Foundation, Heineken Malaysia’s corporate social responsibility arm.

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