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Title: Don't throw it away
Date: 13-Sep-2016
Category: Initiative towards greener environment
Source/Author:         BY MEERA MURUGESAN for NST
Description: promoting zero food wastage

Tengku Zatashah tells Meera Murugesan that if people see the homeless and hungry, they will be encouraged to not waste food

IT is just past 10am and Tengku Datin Paduka Setia Zatashah looks sharp and sporty as she stands outside the Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK) in Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur.

With her hair pulled back in a ponytail and dressed in a red T-shirt with white pants, she is all ready to get down to work.


Tengku Zatashah is passionate about promoting zero food wastage. Pix by Saifullizan Tamadi.

ROYAL CAUSE

The daughter of the Sultan Of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, not only volunteers time and services at the soup kitchen but she is also passionate about promoting zero food wastage.

She feels strongly that unwanted or excess food should not be thrown away but channelled to groups like KSK, which use it to feed the urban poor and homeless.

Tengku Zatashah says food wastage happens every day and more so during the festive season. She believes that if people see how certain communities in the city are struggling to get food and basic necessities, they will be more disciplined about reducing wastage and donating excess food to the right channels.

She got a first-hand view of the situation when she started volunteering with KSK’s food distribution network last year.


Tengku Zatashah handing out food packets at KSK. Pix by Saifullizan Tamadi.

PREVENTING WASTAGE

Tengku Zatashah followed the soup kitchen volunteers to Petaling Street where she saw the struggles and challenges of the poor and homeless.

“It’s the lack of awareness that leads to food wastage. It is only when you go to the streets and see for yourself, as I have done, that will you realise there is a real need for food for the homeless.”

In the case of supermarkets, if products are unsold and close to the expiration date, these are cleared and the shelves restocked with fresh produce. The cleared items usually go to waste.

Tengku Zatashah says that in France for example, it’s illegal for supermarkets to throw away unsold food. Instead, they must channel these food products to charities, orphanages or food banks. Italy has also introduced a similar law.

“Many people think that if a food product is past its expiration date, it cannot be consumed and should be thrown away. Expiration dates are given as a safety measure; there are certain foods which can still be safely consumed.”

During Ramadan, many hotels have plenty of excess food which ends up in the bin.

During the recent Ramadan, Tengku Zatashah became very concerned about the large amount of food wastage from buka puasa events. So she started her call for zero food wastage.

Many major hotels in the Klang Valley answered her call and handed over excess food to KSK. Volunteers reheated and packed the food for distribution to the homeless and urban poor through Truckerz Society, a non-governmental organisation.


The daughter of the Sultan Of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, not only volunteers time and services at the soup kitchen but she is also passionate about promoting zero food wastage. Pix by Saifullizan Tamadi.

GIVING BACK

Tengku Zatashah continues to seek support from the food industry for zero food wastage.

When she was growing up, her parents constantly stressed that food shouldn’t be wasted because there would always be someone without food somewhere.

It was also the time when the world was shocked by the devastating effects of the widespread famine in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s. Images of starving and dying children were constantly highlighted on television and newspapers.

“When you see such pictures, you realise how blessed you are to have so much food,” she says.

It was her friends who first started volunteering with KSK. After hearing about the good work being done there, Tengku Zatashah decided to join them.

She says many people assume that KSK just feeds the homeless but the group’s work goes much deeper.

The members don’t just feed the poor; they are committed to assisting vulnerable people improve their lives and they help the homeless get off the streets.

By setting up a food bank for example, KSK has been able to offer sustenance to the urban poor and to ensure that very low income households can still nurture their children, especially with the rising cost of living.

“Rather than spend the little they earn on food, these families can then use the money for education or other necessities,” says Tengku Zatashah.

Through its medical service, KSK is also providing basic medical care to people living in the streets and volunteers also assist the poor and homeless to apply for identification documents or job placements.

Tengku Zatashah says: “What they are doing goes far beyond feeding people. They are trying to find long-term solutions to issues that the homeless and urban poor are facing.”


A KSK volunteer providing food to a homeless person.

Cool donation

SEGIFRESH Supermarket, under the management of Segi Value Holdings, recently donated a refrigerated truck and other equipment as well as fresh produce to Kechara Soup Kitchen.

The donation will help KSK in its activities, which includes the collection of donated food and distribution of food packages.

Now, volunteers will be able to travel longer distances to pick up food donated by various sources and, with the refrigerated truck, food will not get spoilt.

This in turn will contribute towards the goal of zero food wastage and ensure that people in need get food.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry, it is estimated that Malaysians waste 15,000 tonnes of food daily, including 3,000 tonnes that are still fit for consumption.



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