GEORGE TOWN, Nov 20 — Penang’s pilot Mutiara Food Bank will be expanded to feed more low-income households in the state following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Food Aid Foundation today.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng who witnessed the signing ceremony today, said the Mutiara Food Bank pilot programme started in May this year to distribute vegetables, fruits and baked goods to poor families in the state.

“The signing of this MoU is an important step to expand the Mutiara Food Bank operations next year and it will also involve assistance from the Penang Chef and Hotel Associations,” he said at his office here.

Mutiara Food Bank, headed by Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, has benefited over 7,000 people to date, Lim said.

According to Saifuddin who was also present, Tesco will supply food surplus of vegetables, fruits and baked goods each day and the Mutiara Food Bank will collect and sort out the food.

“We will pack it and then it will be distributed to those in our list,” he said.

Saifuddin said the food is distributed to about 10 constituencies in the state and distribution is conducted in a different constituency each day.

The name list of recipients is obtained from the state’s social welfare programmes, zakat and the state welfare department.

“We will vet through the list and conduct checks before confirming them as recipients of the food aid,” he said.

Saifuddin said each family will receive supplies from the food bank at least twice a week.

“This is to lessen their burden so that they can have more disposable income on hand,” he said.

With the new collaboration, Saifuddin said surplus cooked food will be collected from hotels for distribution.

“This will include halal curries and other cooked food which will be frozen, packed and then distributed to the people on the same day,” he said.

Food Aid Foundation has been assisting the Mutiara Food Bank in its operations and with the MoU, it will share more expertise and training in extending the programme to more eligible families.

Lim said the Mutiara Food Bank is one of the state’s many social welfare programmes to ease the burden of the lower income group.

The Penang government has spent RM23.2 million on its Agenda Ekonomi Saksama, a poverty eradication programme since 2009.

The state has also spent about RM412.63 million since 2008 on its various social welfare programmes under the i-sejahtera programme benefiting senior citizens, single mothers and the disabled.