'Community kitchens' to serve unused food to needy

Company formerly headed by Leung Chun-ying's wife plans "community kitchens" to serve needy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 8:45am

"Community kitchens" will be set up around the city to serve the needy using foods unused by catering outlets, the new chairman of Food for Good, Professor Joe Leung Cho-bun, said.

Outlining the initiative, Leung said the company had secured funding from the owner of a local beauty salon to establish a community kitchen in North District.

The project is to be undertaken in collaboration with the Hong Kong Federation of Women, of which Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, wife of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, is a patron. Regina Leung was previously in charge of Food for Good, having established it in 2012, but stepped down in January over a possible conflict of interest due to the organisation being a private company as opposed to a charity.

It is currently undergoing transition to a non-profit entity, and Regina Leung remains an honorary patron.

Joe Leung hopes they will establish a second kitchen in Tung Chung, where they may be able to use excess food generated by the airport.

He said the airport had been doing a lot in reducing and recycling food waste, but that there was still room for improvement.

"We are now liaising with local supermarkets and wet markets to see if they can supply food that is close to expiry dates," he added.

Following Regina Leung's departure, Food for Good is being run by a group that includes veteran scholars and businessmen supported by funds from second-generation tycoons. According to the Companies Registry, it has seven directors forming an executive committee, which includes Leung Chun-ying supporters such as former Observatory director Lam Chiu-ying, former Housing Society chairman Yeung Ka-sing, and Irene Yau Lee Che-yun, a former government news head who was a member of Leung Chun-ying's election team.

The other directors are geography professor Lam Kin-che, Professor Jonathan Wong Woon-chung, a specialist in waste management, and Simon Wong Ka-wo, owner of a catering company. Beneath the organisation's executive committee are four sub-committees.

One, which focuses on educating the public on food waste, is being headed by Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, the grandson of tycoon Cheng Yu-tung. Another looking at food waste in the property sector is being led by Martin Lee Ka-shing, son of Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee.

"Our primary aim is to build a new culture of saving our precious food resources and eating smartly," Joe Leung said.

"We are hoping to minimise food waste at the source and try our very best to use or recycle that waste."

The company will serve as a platform and act as a bridge between food donors and recipient bodies. It will also be involved in public education.

But an established food donation charity called for better co-ordination between their services and Food for Good in order to avoid unnecessary competition and further waste.

Caribbean Chan Miu-yu, chief executive of Food Angel, a food donation and transfer charity founded in 2011, hoped there would be "friendly" instead of "vicious" competition to avoid overlapping efforts in some areas or districts.

"We so far have no idea and have not been told what the organisation is about. And we might run the risk of wasting precious resources if there is any overlapping in the provision of services and recipients," she said.

Chan was worried that current donors might walk away from them, favouring Food for Good with its high-profile backing from Regina Leung and tycoons.

While Regina Leung was not running the company, she still attends most of the board meetings and takes a personal interest in developing its programmes, Joe Leung said. She had visited various food waste charities, including Food Angel, to learn about the problem and services on offer.

Food for Good would also co-operate with religious groups to recycle food waste at elderly care centres and to promote food recycling at shopping malls and housing estates, Joe Leung said.

It would also organise a "Caring Chef" activity at Disneyland where the park's hotel chefs would cook meals for hundreds of children using donated food.

"This is being dubbed 'Operation Clean Plate'," he said. "Children will have to eat all the food, with nothing left."

If this activity went well it would be extended to other catering establishments.