A national food bank to be launched soon by the government will collect non-perishable food and distribute them to agencies and individuals in need.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said his ministry would spearhead the initiative.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will launch it on Dec 22 in Penang.
“We chose Penang as our launching pad for the national food bank programme because it initiated the food bank idea last year.
“I am pleased to go back to Penang to launch one of our biggest initiatives to help those in the B40 category (the bottom 40% of households with monthly income of RM3,900 and below),” he told a dialogue organised by the Malaysian Press Institute with senior editors at his ministry yesterday.
According to Saifuddin, the national food bank will have a two-pronged objective – to ease the burden of the high cost of living and food wastage, and create a spirit of volunteerism in community service.
For a start, he said all hypermarket operators in the country had given their assurance to take part in the initiative.
“Not only that, NGOs, food retailers association and hotel operators association also showed support and interest to take part in this programme,” said Saifuddin.
He added that hypermarkets alone controlled 65% of market capitalisation of food and retail chains in the country, making their participation very important.
“While for hotels, everyday there is a wastage of non-perishable food in the kitchen and on the shelves and the association is determined to help us distribute food to those in need.
“The only thing for us to do is to create a central kitchen on how to manage the food so that it is still good to consume.
As for volunteerism, Saifuddin said his ministry was confident that the community would play a major part in putting forward this initiative in place as shown by Penang when it launched its own food bank.
Penang set up a food bank called The Mutiara Food Bank in May last year by distributing fresh food, baked goods and fruits to more than 7,000 households in the state. The food is collected from nine Tesco outlets, restaurants and hotel chains in Penang.
In June, the Negri Sembilan government also announced that the state would launch its own food bank to help provide food for the homeless and the needy.
There are several private food bank initiatives nationwide where non-governmental organisations enlist the support of their members and the public to provide basic provisions such as rice and cooking oil to marginalised communities.