Unsold food in HK is not getting to the people who need it

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 September, 2009, 12:00am

I wish to share with readers my experiences with unsold yet clean food which could be made available to people in need.

Pret A Manger is known for its donation of unsold sandwiches to charities.

I learned from its website that it is seeking charities to collect food from those shops that currently do not have anyone going to pick it up. Based on my own experience, I assume there is a geographical mismatching problem.

As small as Hong Kong is, those who are in need do not happen to be near the areas of excess. When I volunteered my time at Crossroads for 10 months in 2007, I would drive to Ma On Shan every Tuesday morning from my home in Causeway Bay to pick up unsold pastries and breads from La Rose Noire bakery and deliver them to the Crossroads Foundation in Tuen Mun as part of a lunch for volunteers like me. There were two bread-runs a week then and the other one was performed by a full-time volunteer every Thursday.

You see Starbucks and Pacific Coffee outlets all over Hong Kong. They serve drinks and food and much of the food is pre-packed just like at Pret A Manger.

Nowadays, companies are expected to be environmentally-friendly and socially responsible. I was, therefore, interested to hear a Pacific Coffee barista complaining to a customer about the extra work involved in ensuring that all unsold foods was disposed of at the end of each day. So I e-mailed Starbucks and Pacific Coffee to inquire about their unsold food policy.

While Starbucks replied within a day, Pacific Coffee did not get back to me. Starbucks said it had to get rid of the food after it had passed its shelf life for 'hygiene and safety reasons', which I think is fair enough. I am assuming it has exhausted all other responsible solutions.

Thousands of people in Hong Kong are, on a daily basis, either deprived of basic food supplies or need supplementary food in order to get a full meal. It seems to me Hong Kong does not lack willing givers but lacks centralised efforts to co-ordinate the flow from the point of excess to where it is needed.

Roderick Kar, Pok Fu Lam