Food banks open in selected universities to help hungry, poor students

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (left) announced that his ministry has set up food banks at 20 public universities. ― Picture courtesy of Saifuddin’s office
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail (left) announced that his ministry has set up food banks at 20 public universities. ― Picture courtesy of Saifuddin’s office

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 ― The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry is setting up food banks in public universities, following reports of students surviving on as little as one meal per day.

Its minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the issue was discussed in-depth by the Cabinet, following which he instructed his ministry to extend the Foodbank Malaysia programme to the universities’ campuses.

“I have personally met with 20 of the public universities’ vice-chancellors on March 3, who agreed to hold the programme at their respective campuses immediately,” he said in a statement.

Some 17 institutions are or will be involved in the programme, including Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia on February 26, and Universiti Malaya on March 07.

“Tentatively, the programme will commence at Universiti Putra Malaysia on March 21, UiTM Penang on March 23, Universiti Malaysia Pahang on April 1, Universiti Sains Malaysia on April 08, Universiti Utara Malaysia on April 15, and Universiti Malaysia Sabah on April 22, in co-operation with the ministry on the state level.

“The ministry has managed to get the commitment of 430 supermarket outlets nationwide to contribute their food supplies, which will then be channeled to the students,” Saifuddin said.

He listed 13 supermarket franchises as participating in Food Bank Malaysia, which includes the likes of Giant, Tesco, AEON, NSK, Econsave, 99 Speedmart, Mydin, and others.

Saifuddin added he also met with the Young Consumers Association last week, where it was decided the programme on campus universities will be conducted by the students themselves, alongside support from the ministry and its strategic partners such as the Food Aid Foundation, Kechara Soup Kitchen, and Mutiara Foodbank.

“This will be part of our move to strengthen the volunteerism campaign at the university level. The ministry will ensure these students will be able to obtain the food surplus from the aforementioned supermarkets.

“We are also in the consultation process of referring to the relevant parties to formulate a bill to implement food banks in the country, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament by the end of the year,” he said.

Several other ministries, including Education and Finance, have offered logistical and financial assistance.

The Finance Ministry in particular will aid by providing pick-up lorries to transport the food surplus from the supermarkets to the university campuses.

It was recently reported that many students from B40 backgrounds often end up fasting frequently or eating simple bread for several days, so as to ensure they are able to eat at least once every day.

According to Berita Harian, when they do eat a full meal the students tend to choose the cheapest meals available in the cafeteria, such as instant noodles or nasi bujang which costs them anywhere between RM2 to RM2.50.