Bangkok Caters To The Needy.
City Launches Community Fridge To Cater To The Needy.
The city famous for its street food and dining out, Bangkok, has gone up a notch in the game by fixing a flaw in its system and solving a social problem at the same time. Although the city is flooded with delicious looking food everywhere, a good part of it never gets consumed. When the days business is over, most of the leftover food goes straight into the trash can. And it’s the same all over the world. All this wasted food in Bangkok confirms and adds to the global statistics by the United Nations Environment Program that we waste nearly one-third of the food produced.
Food rescue foundation, ThaiHarvest/SOS, however, could not digest this fact. The foundation proceeded with a plan to get all these excess food to the hungry and needy people in Bangkok, by launching the city’s first Community fridge. Vicharee Vichit-Vadakan, the founder & managing director, of The Commons, an upscale city mall in Thong-Lor, welcomed this great initiative by hosting the fridge in their space.
Grundig, a firm dealing in household appliances, donated the fridge to the cause, while the various vendors in the complex contribute with leftover food that passes quality standards and is suitable for consumption. Tanaporn Oi-isarnanukul, the donor relations coordinator and food hygienist for ThaiHarvest/SOS, is always excited, even on a Sunday afternoon, as she climbs off the shiny new food truck to check what was donated previous night. The refrigerated truck then collects and distributes the fridge contents to the various poor communities across the city.
The food delivery that is welcomed with outstretched arms.
One of the locations the food truck delivers to is in the Nonthaburi province. Here a Vietnamese and Cambodian refugee group have formed a small Christian community. Every Sunday, Pastor Pornchai’s congregation of roughly 50-60 people, gather outside the church, awaiting the weekly delivery of food items.
From among the churchgoers, Thai members start sorting out the portions to hand out. The refugees patiently, wait in line for their turn. Many of them waiting to take food and share with their family members. One such refugee, John, mentioned how he looks forward to when pork and beef are available, although he enjoys the different variety of food that comes in too. For some, these deliveries by ThaiHarvest/SOS is a nice change from the otherwise eggs or vegetables that are cheaply available at the local market. The people here didn’t think much about food that was leftover and meant to be thrown away. Although, they did wonder why upscale restaurants would want to give it away for free.
Their pastor’s word, however, puts everyone at ease. Everyone continues to pick up portions as per their liking and availability, with no one grabbing too much. Soon it’s all distributed, and one can see the happy crowd returning home, while some find a shade in the soi, to enjoy their nice little Sunday meal.
Accomplishments and strategies for the future.
ThaiHarvest/SOS have, since the start of this project in December 2016, have saved close to 583 kilograms of good food from The Commons, from being dumped. The various contributing businesses are also updated on a monthly basis with such data.
It is hard, for those in the catering business, to accurately estimate what or how much food they can donate per day. In some weeks there’s hardly half a kg of food, while on the better days the fridge has even 28 kilograms of food. This unsteady amount of food received from restaurants poses the biggest challenge for the foundation.
To counter this problem, Tanaporn plans on starting the fridge at various other Malls around Bangkok. Even marketplaces, avenues with several dining venues, food courts, hotels, canteens etc. could easily supply surplus food instead of throwing them away. When the number of donors goes up, the amount of food donated would also get more consistent, and those who depend on this food can expect a more regular supply for their hunger.
Bangkok, with its first ever community fridge, has now become a part of the positive movement around the world. From London to Mumbai to Auckland, and now Bangkok, these big cities are proving that they also have a big heart.
With numerous food outlets in Bangkok promoting and catering to the obsession of eating out, there certainly will be no shortage of good to eat leftover food. All that is needed is to ensure it reaches the stomach of the hungry and not a trash can in some back alley. If you own a food & beverage business and have a good conscience, get in touch with ThaiHarvest/SOS through email [email protected] or give them a call on 096-808-8008. If not, then please share this article, so that it may reach someone who can contribute.
What can the poor expect to get from a community fridge?
How about bread, spareribs of barbequed pork, fresh green salads, veggies like broccoli, cucumber and carrots. Sometimes the fridge surprises you with some expensive items like pastries and croissants! The manager of Little Pea Café, Connie Estampador-Adaya, is all too happy to donate to this cause, which allows her to serve only fresh food to the café customers and at the same time help cut the hunger of the poor people who live nearby.
Ensuring food quality and delivery
Although the fridge is kept clean and spotless, food safety is still a big concern. Which is why the foundation does not accept food made using coconut milk, cooked rice and even seafood items. Tanaporn is, however, very happy to receive bakery items, frozen meat products – ham, sausages, and even fresh veggies and fruits. Still, before any food goes into the truck, she ensures that the food is safe and well packed. Although judging by looks and smell is usually enough, Ms Tanaporn does sometimes have to taste to confirm. She has no qualms about doing so, and till date, there have been no cases of sickness due to food quality, she happily remarked.
Timely delivery of the collected food is also of the utmost importance and given Bangkok’s infamous traffic, can pose a huge challenge sometimes. However, so far, the traffic has not caused any food to be spoiled and thrown away. The lone ThaiHarvest/SOS food truck, also sometimes meets a gridlock as it collects leftover food items from various other outlets spread around Bangkok. The foundation plans on expanding its program by getting one more truck and also optimise delivery by using shorter and better-connected routes.