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Smart App Way To Go For Food Saving Initiatives


Last update: 10/10/2016


By Sarimah Othman

(This is the first of a two-part article on the efforts taken by local NGOs to reduce food wastage and feed the hungry.)

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- While there are already existing initiatives in the city to save food that will otherwise be wasted and distribute it to the needy, two organisations are set to launch smartphone applications that will take the whole process to the next level.

Food Aid Foundation and Grub Cycle Malaysia are viewing their apps as an easy and more efficient way to connect non-governmental organisations (NGOs), soup kitchens and volunteers with potential food donors like restaurants, hotels and supermarkets, and reach out to a wider circle of people who are hard-pressed to afford even one basic meal a day.

Their modus operandi may differ but the two organisations share the same objective of curbing food wastage and feeding the hungry.

Food Aid operations director Hayati Ismail said it was high time such an app was introduced in Malaysia as advanced countries have already been using it for a long time for their own charity initiatives.

She said for a start, Food Aid's smartphone app - developed by Sime Darby Foundation and to be launched this month - will connect the organisation with Tesco's chain of hypermarkets.

OPEN PLATFORM

Hayati said eventually Food Aid hoped to expand its app into an open platform to allow other like-minded NGOs, charity bodies, soup kitchens, food banks and other interested parties to participate.

"Our app will allow organisations (involved in food aid initiatives) to relay their needs to each other, which will result in less food going to waste. At the same time, we are helping the needy," she told Bernama.

Besides being utilised for the purpose of placing orders and collecting and distributing food, the app would also keep tabs on the amount of food saved or wasted, as well as the amount of food collected and stored, and even food lost during processing, she explained.

Grub Cycle's food app, meanwhile, will be launched in November. Being a social enterprise Grub Cycle's app, while aimed at reducing food wastage, takes on a business approach.

According to co-founder Redza Shahid Md Ridzuan, the app would focus on cafes and bakeries located in the Klang Valley. Since foodstuffs like doughnuts only have a limited shelf life of three days, the outlets concerned can "blast" their clearance sales and post photographs of their goodies on the app.

"Those interested in buying them can pay for them online and later go to the bakery concerned to collect whatever they have ordered by showing the code issued to them," explained Redza Shahid.

According to statistics revealed by solid waste and public cleansing management service operator, SW Corporation, approximately 3,000 tonnes of food - enough to feed 2.2 million people - that are discarded daily in Malaysia are preventable food waste.

The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute and the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry are the coordinators of the MYsavefood programme, which promotes the reduction of food loss and food waste. The programme is an awareness campaign by the MYsavefood network, which is part of a global initiative called SAVE FOOD by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

APP CHEAPER AND MORE EFFECTIVE

Food saving activist Mohd Rahimi Adnan, who was behind the "Avoid Wastage, Stop Hunger" campaign at this year's Ramadan Bazaar at Jalan Raja Alang, here, also intends to develop an application to expand on his fasting month initiative.

Comparing virtual apps with food banks, he said the former was a cheaper and faster way to distribute food and get other organisations to participate in the efforts. "Its impact will be greater and more effective," he added.

Food banks, said Mohd Rahimi, were expensive to set up and have limited operating hours but they have their advantages too as they were equipped with freezers to ensure food safety, and have permanent locations with centralised operating systems that were easy to monitor.

"On the other hand, having a virtual app to operate a food saving initiative is inexpensive as the storing of food is taken care of by the donors themselves, and the operating hours are flexible," he said, adding that on the flip side, food safety can be compromised if the food is not stored and handled properly.

"Other disadvantages to using an app is having to carry out our operations at different locations, which makes it difficult for us monitor and regulate all our activities."

Viewing smartphone apps as an avenue for like-minded NGOs to team up and implement food saving and distribution programmes, Mohd Rahimi said they could also share their databases for various other welfare activities.

-- BERNAMA