Mainland immigrant found friends, grace and assurance at food bank

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2011, 12:00am


For mainland immigrant Yang Li, the weekly visit to the food bank run by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals turned out to be much more than a way to feed her impoverished family. It ended her isolation and fears of discrimination.

'I didn't have friends in Hong Kong. I couldn't speak the language. Everything was so expensive. I felt many people didn't like us. So I avoided going out.

'But the people at the food bank were very friendly. You could tell you could trust them just from their smiles. I was relieved after coming here because I knew that whatever happened, I could come to these people for help,' Yang said.

'You don't have this sort of place for the poor on the mainland.'

Yang, a Hunan native, came to Hong Kong in 2009 to be with her new husband, bringing two sons from a previous marriage with her. Her husband, a security guard, has a daughter from his previous marriage.

'My husband is a very nice person,' said Yang. 'He raises my sons. But he is suffering from chronic illness. He gets nervous and angry under pressure.'

While her in-laws have chosen to turn their backs on her, the social workers at the food bank became like a second family. They even added milk formula to her food pack after a casual telephone conversation revealed Yang had undergone major surgery years beforehand.

Yang still vividly recalls her first visit to the food bank with her sons nearly two years ago and her surprise at how much food they were given - rice, noodles, eggs, biscuits, cooking oil and tinned groceries.

'We knew we would get free food before we came. But to our surprise, the food pack was much bigger than expected. The quality is good. These are products that the supermarkets are selling.'

On their next visit, they took a trolley. Yang explained that the food bank does not supply all of a family's needs, but helps make a substantial saving on grocery bills. 'Just not having to buy rice and cooking oil alone helps save a lot,' she said.

A recent report on global wealth found that one in six families with children go hungry in Hong Kong. It described the children as being in a state of high food insecurity.

In light of the situation these families are in, the South China Morning Post's Heart of Hong Kong Relief Fund is raising money for the city's major food banks.

The campaign aims to raise funds for the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals' Food for All - Short-term Food Assistance Service and the People's Food Bank run by St James' Settlement.

Donations will be distributed equally to the two beneficiaries.

Yang no longer needs to go to the food bank. 'My husband has been promoted and our finances have improved a bit. We also have plenty of supplies from the food bank at home - I think we can stop using their services for a while,' she said.


St James' Settlement's People's Food Bank

Established in 2003, it provides food to people in need on a short-term basis, serving rice, noodles, canned food, frozen meat, vegetables, hot meals and baby milk formula to around 1,500 people a day.

Tung Wah Group of Hospitals' Food for All assistance service

Food for All has been providing short-term help to the needy since 2009. Some 16,500 people get rice, noodles, biscuits and powdered milk, as well as coupons for fresh meat, vegetables, fruits and cooked meals. Customised menus are also available.

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