The Movement Control Order (MCO) implemented last month has adversely affected some of society’s most underserved communities, leaving many without regular sources of income, food and shelter. What A Waste channels excess food and fresh produce to the homeless; the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns ensures our indigenous people have access to basic necessities; and Crisis Home cares for a severely marginalised HIV-positive community.
These are long days for the team at What A Waste (WaW).
Since the movement control order (MCO) was issued, the social enterprise specialising in food rescue and redistribution has been vigorously channelling a daily average of 350 warmly prepared meals to marginalised communities.
As at press time and Day 17 of the MCO, the 5,950 food packs produced had fed 1,500 families.
This operation is being achieved through meticulous planning by co-founder Alvin Chen (right) and his core team.
“We have hardly slept since the MCO was issued,” says Chen, who is also an architect with a firm specialising in low-cost housing schemes in Malaysia.
He heads WaW with his co-founder and wife, Angela Tan, with the support of five other core team members, 25 staff warriors and more than 200 registered warriors so far (warriors are executors of food delivery).
The social enterprise, whose primary mission is to undo food wastage, is out to revolutionise the outdated food rescue model commonly practised by hotels and food banks.
“As architects, we identify problems and find solutions. Even with numerous organisations and social enterprises looking into food wastage, the problem grows every year. The system isn’t working. The distribution method is not sustainable. Our exposure to the hard-core poor troubled us greatly. The thought of us complaining every day when people out there are suffering — that did it for us,” says Chen.
WaW generates support from the T20 group to support the B40 community through its community feed programme.
At its inception two years ago, Chen and Angeline began by appealing to restaurateurs. Some cooked for free as part of their corporate social responsibility; others accepted a fee.
It quickly proved to be a sustainable cycle that uplifted communities in need and F&B vendors.
WaW then transitioned from food caterers to willing home cooks, whose combined efforts readied 300 packs of food daily for outreach.
“A pack of chicken rice weighs 300g. The 3,000kg of good food we have rescued is directly feeding 2,142 families of four people per household.”
Before the MCO, WaW’s outreach fed about 500 families. Today, WaW churns out 5,100 individual packs cooked from near-expiry ingredients, feeding 3,000 families as it channels food to the homeless, orphanages, elderly-care homes, stranded foreigners, refugees, B40 communities, medical frontliners, the police and military force — and even stray dogs.
Partnerships with F&B tenants in malls and outside, mamak shop owners, home cooks, wholesalers and food banks have been fruitful as all share the onus to feed those who go hungry.
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