PUTRAJAYA: The government has mobilised the Foodbank Malaysia initiative to help university students from the B40 group or poor families.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the food bank trucks, transporting surplus food supply including perishable food items, was already heading to the universities.
He said the Foodbank Malaysia programme started in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia on Feb 26 and at Universiti Malaya on March 7.
“Tentatively, the Foodbank Malaysia programme will start at Universiti Putra Malaysia on March 21, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Pulau Pinang (March 23), Universiti Malaysia Pahang (April 1), Universiti Sains Malaysia (April 8), Universiti Utara Malaysia (April 15) and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (April 22),” the minister told reporters today.
Saifuddin said he had received a call from Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng that the Finance Ministry had agreed to provide special allocation of about RM3 million to get 14 trucks, equipped with chiller, for the programme.
Lim, who was also present at the press conference, said these trucks would be used to distribute free food to the students from the B40 group at 20 public universities.
On how the underprivileged students could access the free food, Saifuddin said based on his meeting with 20 deputy vice-chancellors from 20 public universities on March 7, several measures had been agreed upon including providing full logistic support.
“In some universities, they have hotel catering courses which come with big kitchens to cook the free food and distribute them to their students.
“University students’ associations have agreed to form volunteer groups who will help their fellow colleagues by cooking the food received (under the Foodbank Malaysia) for distribution.
“The universities even agreed to provide the full list of students from the B40 group in their campuses. I have been told that on an average nearly 50 per cent of the students come from the low-income group,” he said.
Berita Harian has reported how some university students, mostly from the B40 group, had adopted a frugal lifestyle to ensure they have something to eat the next day.
Saifuddin said since the Foodbank Malaysia programme was launched on Dec 22, 430 branches of various supermarkets had agreed to contribute the food surplus to help the hardcore poor and the B40 students.
The companies which have agreed to be part of the Foodbank Malaysia programme so far are Tesco, Giant, AEON Co, AEON Big, NSK, Hero Market, Econsave, TF Value, 99 Speedmart, My Family Store, SegiFresh, Mydin and LuLu.
Saifuddin also said Foodbank Malaysia Foundation was officially formed on Jan 7 and ready to deploy efforts to help those in need.
“The ministry is also in the midst of drafting a Bill to regulate the execution of the food bank programme in Malaysia, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament by the year end.”