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South China Morning Post - Community kitchens plan to go electronic

Date 2015/06/15

 Community kitchens plan to go electronic Task force searches for winning platform that will help find donors quicker and feed needy

Community kitchens will be able to reach out to more needy people under a government initiative to set up an electronic platform that will help them find food donors and make their operations more efficient.

The Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund Taskforce, set up two years ago with HK$500 million to help tackle poverty through innovative ideas, will allocate a “seven-digit” sum to the organisation with the best proposal to bring the platform into practice.

Community kitchens take food donations like fresh meat and vegetables from places such as markets and restaurants. They then cook meals in their own kitchens and distribute them to low-income people.

Patricia Lau, deputy head of the government’s Efficiency Unit, which provides secretarial support to the task force, said one problem community kitchens often faced was their search for the nearest food donors.

Transporting donated food from Hong Kong Island to Sham Shui Po, for example, would incur a high transport cost.

“Through the platform, community kitchens will be able to find out that, for example, a hotel in this or that district is willing to donate 10 boxes of potatoes. Then nearby kitchens can pick them up,”

Lau said. Community kitchen operations would become more efficient in this way, so they could focus their resources on helping more people in need, she said. The task force is now accepting submissions and hopes to pick a winner this year.

Asked if it would be more efficient to subsidise community kitchens directly through the fund, Lau said this would not solve the problems they were facing in the long run.

Connie Ng Man-yin, senior service manager at St James’ Settlement, which runs a kitchen that gives away 2,800 meals a day, said manpower was a problem. “When a donor calls us and says that it has vegetables to give away, we need to go and collect them right away.

Otherwise the food will turn bad. But our staff may be too busy cooking in the kitchen,” she said.