PETALING JAYA: Inspired by a television programme about food banks in the United States, Datin Tina Ali Abdullah rounded up a few concerned friends to do something for those badly affected by the financial ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.Soon, a non-governmental organisation called the Free Food Society was formed and registered with the Registrar of Societies on March 22.
Tina’s husband Datuk Ali Abdul Kadir was invited to be president due to his wide-ranging corporate experience – he is currently independent non-executive director of Ekuiti Nasional Bhd.
“Funding for our initial projects was mostly obtained through friends, family members and the committee members themselves,” said Tina, who added it was an NGO with “zero expenses” as members contribute towards its running cost.
Even though the group is based in the Klang Valley, it is not narrow in its focus as it has also undertaken aid activities for communities in Sabah, Sarawak, Langkawi, Kelantan, Terengganu, Perak, Melaka and Kedah, in partnership with contacts from these places.
“Although we have undertaken to donate meals to groups and communities, we tend to focus on giving food ingredients rather than cooked meals as we target families who can do their own cooking, rather than the homeless.
“We would like to be able to include fresh produce like eggs, vegetables, fish and chicken, but we can only do this if we have a partner willing to handle the logistics and supply for us.
“We would also be interested to examine the possibility of setting up food banks in strategic locations, so that those in need can avail themselves of food near their homes,” she said.
As at June 30, the Free Food Society had distributed food packs to about 3,000 families and provided meals to over 15,000 people from all over the country.
Tina, the organisation’s vice-president, thanked her committee members for all their selfless contributions.
“We are fortunate to have Raja Singham, managing director and co-founder of the Brickfields Asia College Group, as an executive committee member.
“His team contributed all the design input for the Free Food Society logo, posters, banners, provided the space to store the food packs while awaiting delivery, and also provided a logistics team to handle all incoming and outgoing deliveries,” she added.
Committee member Chee Yew Guan, who is founder of Food Aid Foundation, a charity food distribution organisation, has also been giving guidance to the NGO.
The largest tie-in with others is with Jaya Grocer, which has pledged to donate about 1,000 food packs – a combination of rice, cooking oil, instant noodles, sardines and baked beans – to the society for six months.
“This donation will enable us to ramp up our aid to almost double our current capacity.
“With the contribution from Jaya Grocer and cash donations received, God willing, we are now able to feed at least 2,000 families a month,” said Tina, who welcomes more strategic partnerships to help the poor.