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Food for the soul

Published on Friday, 10 May 2013
Mark Liversidge of 1O1O collects food from the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.
Photo: 1010
Foodlink director of development Alice de la Fuente Saez shares a meal with elderly locals at Sham Shui Po’s Abundant Grace Family Centre, one of Foodlink’s partners.
Photo: Foodlink

1O1O has partnered with Foodlink Foundation to help feed Hong Kong’s hungry

While Hong Kong is an affluent city with one of the highest proportions of billionaires per capita in the world, many people still go hungry every day as they face difficulties affording even basic meals.

“There are a lot of needy people [in Hong Kong] who struggle to make ends meet or have a reasonable quality of life,” says Mark Liversidge, chief marketing officer of mobile network operator 1O1O.

With this in mind, 1O1O formed a partnership last year with Foodlink Foundation, a charity that fights hunger by minimising food wastage.

“Under our CSR [corporate social responsibility] programme, we sponsor the operational costs of refrigerated trucks for Foodlink to collect surplus food from designated hotels and restaurants and deliver it to needy people,” Liversidge says.

Liversidge also takes the chance to hop on Foodlink’s vans and personally help out whenever he can. “Over the past 8 months, my staff members and I have volunteered a few times to deliver food during the day and I would like to do more in the future,” he says.

Since its establishment in Hong Kong in 2001, Foodlink has collected food from donors such as five-star hotels, clubs and retail stores to provide healthy meals to groups including the homeless, asylum seekers, the unemployed and low-income families. The charity’s success has even seen it receive enquiries on how to duplicate its model in the UK, Malaysia, India and China.

“It is extremely sad that there are over 1.2 million people living under the poverty line in Hong Kong, a third of which are the elderly and a quarter of which are children,” says Alice de la Fuente Saez, director of development at Foodlink. Before joining Foodlink, she adds, she had no idea how bad the situation was until she started meeting people living in caged homes and children who have never had birthday cakes.

The result of the charity’s efforts, however, is rewarding. “It touches my heart every time I see a smile on someone’s face from something as simple as a meal,” De la Fuente Saez says. She hopes that by helping people meet their basic needs, they can then focus on looking for jobs or improving other aspects of their lives.

In recent years, De la Fuente Saez says she has seen more local companies engage in CSR and that it is heart-warming to see their willingness to give back to society. “We really appreciate what 1O1O has done for us because we rely heavily on corporate donations to accomplish what we set out to do,” she says.

Besides food collection, Foodlink recently started collecting surplus household products from hotels, such as unused toilet rolls, shampoo, conditioners and liquid soap from guest bedrooms, which they then pass on to various beneficiaries. Local retail stores, such as Mannings, also donate surplus milk powder and toiletries on a monthly basis.

Action Care, one of Foodlink’s 45 beneficiaries, is a voluntary support group that was set up in 2008. It receives 15 boxes of food every Thursday which its staff members and volunteers repackage and distribute to 40 needy families.

“Our volunteers tried to cook meals and deliver them to needy people, but unfortunately it was not very effective,” says Jessica Chan, development officer at Action Care. “Foodlink, therefore, has helped us reach our goals more effectively by providing us ready-to-eat food.”

According to Chan, people referred by social service agencies normally receive food supplies for six weeks, but it is difficult to maintain supplies after that. That is when Action Care, with the assistance of Foodlink, steps in to help.

Liversidge hopes that 1O1O’s CSR activities will help to raise public awareness over the issue of food and intends to look for more ways to help Foodlink achieve its goals in the future. “Everyone who lives in this city should spare one day every year to do some volunteer work,” he says, adding that companies across Hong Kong should encourage staff to do more volunteer work.

De la Fuente Saez understands the importance of time and convenience in Hong Kong, so she makes it as easy as possible for people who wish to volunteer. “Interested parties can fill in a form that we have uploaded on our website. This will serve as a base for us to match their desired activities with their expertise.”

When it comes to spreading love and care across the community, as Chan points out, “every effort counts”.


COLLECTION  1O1O sponsors Foodlink trucks to collect surplus meals from 50 donors, including hotels and restaurants. Household products such as toilet rolls, and toiletries like shampoo, conditioners and liquid soap are also collected.
DISTRIBUTION  Foodlink trucks deliver donations to 45 beneficiaries, such as voluntary support group Action Care, which then arrange donations to the homeless, asylum seekers, the unemployed and low-income families.
GOING GLOBAL  Foodlink’s business model could soon be adopted in the UK, Malaysia, India and China.

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