Initiative aims to redress global food imbalance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 9:40am

Obesity and malnutrition may be at opposite ends of the nutrition spectrum, but they're both pressing problems in today's world.

About one billion people in the world are hungry, while roughly an equal number suffer from obesity, diabetes, and other health-related issues of overconsumption.

Centre for Health Protection statistics published last year showed that 41.1 per cent of people aged 18 to 64 in Hong Kong were overweight or obese. Four in five people fail to meet the recommendation of having at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

The combination of poor and excessive eating is directly linked to cancer, heart disease and stroke, which accounted for 55 per cent of registered deaths in Hong Kong in 2008, up from 29 per cent in 1961.

Two Hong Kong women have taken action to address the opposing problems of the obesity epidemic and global food imbalance. Katy Yung and Stephanie Tan founded Table For Two an organisation that partners with restaurants and corporate cafeterias in the city to serve healthy, nutritionally balanced meals.

A HK$2 charge - the United Nations' guideline of the cost of one nutritious meal in developing countries - is added to the price of these TFT-branded meals, which is used to provide school lunches in China. "We like to say that when you dine at TFT, you never dine alone," says Tan.

Both the women have full-time jobs: Yung works with a private investment firm and Tan in insurance. Their willingness to invest a significant portion of their time for a cause they believe in inspires me - it's so much simpler to just write a cheque, particularly in rich and busy Hong Kong.

Both women had been involved in volunteer work previously, but in 2008, after the Sichuan earthquake, they had the itch to do something more. At that time, they had not met each other. Yung organised a fundraising event in her office for the earthquake victims, which received a generous response from her colleagues.

"It touched me because, with a little bit of effort I got a lot of people to do something," she says.

Yung met Tan at a brainstorming session on the issue of food waste at Social Venture Network Hong Kong. A love of food brought the women together. A few weeks later, they met with Masa Kogure, the Japanese entrepreneur who started TFT in Japan in 2007, and decided to replicate its model in Hong Kong.

Tan says that one of the biggest challenges they faced was to involve restaurants in the project. "Some of the restaurants told us that dining is an indulgence and people don't want healthy options, so they turned us down," she explains.

Since last year, TFT Hong Kong has raised funds to provide about 220,000 meals by partnering with over 60 restaurants and more than 180 food outlets.

Support them by dining at one of their restaurants listed on their website, or make a donation.

As a TFT ambassador and supporter, I've come up with this TFT-branded dish.

Marinated Mediterranean yellow tail kingfish with Sicilian cherry tomatoes

Serves 4

400g yellow tail kingfish fillets

Italian vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh orange juice

1 lemon

Handful of parsley

2 garlic cloves

100g Sicilian cherry tomatoes

Handful of rocket

Salt and pepper

  • Dip the fillets quickly into the vinegar and dry them with a kitchen towel.
  • Cover them with a marinade made of 2/3 olive oil and 1/3 orange juice.
  • Slice one lemon and add it to the marinade, together with the parsley and garlic. Leave overnight.
  • The next day, serve the fish with cherry tomatoes, rocket, salt and pepper.

Healthy Gourmet is a weekly column by private chef Andrea Oschetti.