PJKITA > Fuelling Communities with Food: The PJ City Food Bank

Fuelling Communities with Food: The PJ City Food Bank

The PJ City Food Bank is not only an initiative to aid students from low-income families, but it also aims to teach all the youth good and healthy eating habits.

Text by Deborah Chow
Photos courtesy of SK Taman Medan and SK Lembah Subang

 

Petaling Jaya is, without a doubt, a famous food hub, with its crowded hawker stalls to its flourishing hipster cafes around every corner. With the abundance of food available in this town, it is almost difficult for most of us to imagine that many from our own communities within PJ may not always have enough to eat. In fact, there are some who get through the day with barely one small meal.

It is especially concerning that many school goers experience this. Nur Azlinda Salleh, a teacher from Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Medan Petaling Jaya, believes that breakfast is non-negotiable when it comes to the health, wellbeing and performance of her students.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. By taking breakfast, students will be able to focus and pay more attention in class,” she says.

But not all students can afford breakfast. In Azlinda’s school alone, there are 150 students from low income families who rely on the Rancangan Makanan Tambahan (RMT) programme by the Ministry of Education for food during school hours.

Students of SK Taman Medan receiving their free breakfast.

With these school-going children and teenagers in mind, Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya (MBPJ) launched a three year PJ City Food Bank Program. This joint effort with Bank Rakyat has set in motion efforts such as a Food Truck for the ‘Free Breakfast for School Kids’ programme.

The ‘Free Breakfast for School Kids’ program is a similar concept to the old Milo trucks that used to grace our schools in the 1980s and 1990s (remember those?), where students can look forward to this fun food truck. A 5 tonne lorry was modified as a mobile pantry which would be used as an on-the-go kitchen to bring school-goers meals.

The ‘Free Breakfast for School Kids’ program, launched in May of 2017, aids 13 schools within Petaling Jaya. Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Medan Petaling Jaya is one of the schools on the list.

“There are roughly 150 students involved in the ‘Free Breakfast for School Kids’ program. The pupils are from the RMT program and Special Education pupils and are chosen from low income families,” Puan Azlinda says.

Students of SM Lembah Subang waiting patiently for their turn.

Other than helping parents and students in the community who are less fortunate, this program encourages all students (even those not selected for the program) to have breakfast. The food served follows a well balanced diet and students on the program usually get milk, sandwiches and fruits.

“Most of my students who do not take breakfast or do not have the chance to have breakfast at home will have their first meal during recess time,” Puan Azlinda says, explaining that it is important to instil good breakfast habits that students can carry on to their adulthood.

Some 300 students from SK Lembah Subang from low income families are part of the ‘Free Breakfast for School Kids’ program.

“Some of these students don’t have breakfast simply because they cannot afford it,” Pn Roslawati, the RMT facilitator for SK Lembah Subang says, adding that it is important these students get to enjoy healthy food that helps them learn better while at school.

Aside from aiding low-income families, the PJ City Food Bank Programme also teaches good eating habits.

Besides schools, MBPJ has facilitated food donations from various corporate donors to orphanages and shelters since 2014. 63 homes have received food donations through the PJ City Food Bank Programme. The donors, mostly companies and hypermarkets, donated dry food such as instant noodles, rice, packet drinks, Milo, sugar, crackers, biscuits, milk, oil and snacks.

In August 2017, MBPJ launched the ‘Meals on Wheels’ weekend program where food is distributed to approximately 3000 senior citizens, the poor and disabled in selected areas within PJ. ‘Meals on Wheels’ includes buying cooking ingredients and preparing the food in a gotong-royong style to ensure the freshness of the food and for a home-cooked feel to it because while giving is important, the quality and standard of the food is as important.

Food donation and soup kitchens are fuel to communities, especially in Malaysia, a country of food enthusiasts. Ensuring citizens of all ages and backgrounds are provided for in a thoughtful, dignified and even fun (school food truck!) manner is the way forward to a healthier, happier, fuller Petaling Jaya.


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