Malaysians waste almost 17,000 tonnes of food daily – that’s enough to feed 12 million people, three times a day, a recent study claims.
Research by the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp), which highlighted these alarming numbers, also said the amount of wasted food increases 15 to 20% during festive seasons.
But what if one can reduce this wastage and feed the needy at the same time?
Here's where the "Food Rangers" come in. The volunteers from the food distribution arm of the Malaysia Agathiyar Universal Mission Organisation (AUM) collects excess vegetarian food from functions such as weddings, birthday parties, and house warmings, among others, and delivers them to the homeless and the poor around Klang Valley.
Astro Ulagam spoke to R Sri Krsna, who together with his wife J Sri Deviy, initiated this campaign.
Sri Krsna said he’s been involved in feeding street people for several years, but made it a serious venture in the last five years, making it a twice-monthly affair.
"It started off as providing home-prepared food for the homeless, but soon it extended to providing basic medical checks/care for them.
"The initiative later expanded to include the poor living in low-cost housing. We provide basic necessities and groceries to them, and even refer those with documentation problems to the area's respective assemblypersons or MPs, for further assistance," he said when met recently.
The rise of Food RangersThe idea to distribute excess food came about after attending a function, where Sri Deviy spotted food wastage.
Thus came the idea for "Food Rangers", comprising about 10 volunteers from AUM. The initiative was started just last Saturday, and since posts about began being publicised on Facebook and WhatsApp, Sri Krsna has received over 100 calls from people wanting to donate excess food.
"We collect from various areas in the Klang Valley and deliver to places like Bukit Bintang, Jalan Chow Kit, and Masjid Jamek, daily.
"It is easier if the donated food is pre-packed, but if it is not, there is no problem, we can do it ourselves," said Sri Krsna.
According to the security surveillance consultant, he maintains close contact with other NGOs that run soup kitchens and street feeding programmes, to ensure his programme does not clash with their locations or timings.
"All I wish from those wanting to donate excess food is to give us ample notice -- ideally 7 days, or at least 48 hours.
"This is to allow us to plan logistics accordingly," he said.
Despite being busy with the "Food Ranger" programme, Sri Krsna still serves home-cooked food to the needy.
He is looking to establish a database comprising the details of the needy in the Klang Valley soon, to further streamline the distribution process, and hopefully, expand it to other states.
Sri Deviy, meanwhile, does not see cooking for hundreds of people frequently, for the street feeding programme, as a hassle, as "cooking is my passion."
Another factor that triggered her to donate food was witnessing Tamil school students from poor families skip their lessons, or go the whole afternoon before the start of their after school classes without food, as they can't afford a simple meal.
"I thought that food was a basic need. And if we help solve this problem, as in help cover the expenses for food for the students, then the money they have can go towards other expenses in schools," she said.
Charity starts from homeSri Krsna says everyone can contribute towards eradicating hunger if they did whatever little charity they can afford.
"People who earn RM1,000 will have their expenses to pay for, and when their income increases to RM3,000, their commitments will change accordingly.
"However, it will be fantastic if they can find it within themselves to feed just one mouth, a month, and maybe cultivate the habit in their children," he said.
Malaysians, in general, have been very generous in supporting his work, and for that, he is thankful, he added.
One can go a step further than merely satiating a hungry belly by teaching a person, or pointing the person involved towards learning a skill that they can use to survive in life, he opined.
"As cliched as it may sound, I believe in the saying 'teach a man to fish and he eats for a day, and teach him to fish, he eats for a lifetime'."
Those who wish to join the "Food Rangers" as volunteers, or wish to donate their excess food, can contact Sri Krsna at mobile number 012-3970431.
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Photo source: Sri Krsna