HKdrink wristbands unites in fight against poverty

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Volunteers at Food Angel"s Sham Shui Po kitchen trim edible surplus vegetables that would otherwise have been dumped in landfills. EDMOND TANG/CHINA DAILY

Action taken in city to help seniors and children

Three years ago, a woman in Hong Kong surnamed Lo was malnourished and could not afford to buy food.

She lives alone in a 5-square-meter closet, known as a subdivided flat, in Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest and poorest neighborhoods in the special administrative region.

Before Lo, 77, learned about Food Angel-a meals program-three years ago, she was as thin as a rake. When she could, she tried to supplement her starvation diet by lining up for free food packs handed out by a few NGOs and some restaurants. At other times she cooked simple meals such as salted fish and vegetables for herself in her tiny apartment.

Today, Lo receives two free, nutritious meals every day at Food Angel"s community center in Sham Shui Po. On the day she was interviewed, braised pig trotters were on the lunch menu.

A contented Lo said, "I have gained weight since I began having the meals here."

The meals have also helped ease her financial burden. The HK$3,500($446) monthly Comprehensive Social Security Assistance payment she receives from the Hong Kong government does not go very far. More than half-HK$1,900-goes for rent and utility bills, and the rest is spent on basic essentials, including medications and transportation.

Lo"s eyesight is poor, as she has cataracts. With two free meals a day, she is able to save a small amount of money to see a doctor. Occasionally she can afford to buy clothes.

Founded in 2011, Food Angel, a program run by the Bo Charity Foundation, turns edible surplus food from supermarkets, restaurants and hotel kitchens into meals. The meals, which are balanced for nutritional value, go to grassroots elderly people and other low-income households in the city Monday through Friday.

In the past seven years, Food Angel has prepared more than 6 million hot meals and food packages for people in need.

Julian Chow Chung-man, Food Angel"s senior manager (community partner engagement) said the group "rescues" about 4,000 kilograms of surplus food a day.

"Most of it is packed into recoverable boxes and delivered to social welfare organizations, homes for the aged and schools, while a small number of elderly people have their meals at our community center," he said.

Daily life in Hong Kong produces mountains of edible surplus food, most of which is dumped into landfills as waste. As an alternative, Food Angel collects and recycles food which would otherwise be destined for these dumps.

Most of it comprises fresh vegetables and raw meat, and is donated by some 300 supermarkets, wet markets, restaurants and hotels.

After the food is taken to the Food Angel base in Lai Chi Kok, staff members and volunteers trim yellowing leaves off vegetables, then wash and chop the food before it is taken in trucks to two kitchens, where it is transformed into hot meals.