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Not Enough To Eat: Malaysians Are Going Hungry

We have all experienced hunger – the rumbling of the stomach, shaky hands and the gnawing reminder to eat something. As you are reading this, there are thousands of Malaysians that are still going hungry. The uncertainty of the next meal and the inability to have nutritious well-balanced meals are real problems these Malaysians are facing.

“3% of Malaysia is hungry. That’s approximately 900,000 Malaysians!” 

Source: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)

Who Are Malaysia’s Hungry?

The hunger problem is widespread. While there is no definite demographic for those who are hungry in Malaysia. You can find pockets of hungry people on the streets of Kuala Lumpur as well as in the villages in Sarawak. 

A single mother living in Kuala Lumpur’s low-cost flats,[1] for instance, struggles on a daily basis to put meals on the table, let alone nutritious meals. At the same time, you will find hungry university students who have moved from their villages to study in cities going hungry. Then you may be most familiar with the faces of hungry children in rural areas waiting for the next good meal. 

Source: World Bank’s Malaysia Economic Monitor — Making Ends Meet Report

Malaysians go hungry because they don’t have enough money to buy the food they need. The World Bank states that “This is more prominent among those living in urban areas, where the poll results more than tripled from 8.6% to 28.7%. In rural areas, those who feel that they do not have enough money for food rose from 18.6% to 30%”.[2]

A study conducted by Unicef on urban child poverty and deprivation in low-cost flats in Kuala Lumpur found out that 1 in 2 households actually do not have enough money to buy food. 15% of which mentioned that this was a repeated occurrence.[3

Source: UNICEF – Children Without

Yet another study done by University Putra Malaysia showed that 13.4% of adults had both reduced the size of meals and skipped the main meals because of financial constraints. In East Malaysia, the figure was 20.3%, and Peninsular Malaysia 11.5%.[4]

It is apparent that Malaysians still face hunger issues. 

Can Malaysia provide for its people?

Despite Malaysia’s growing economy (pre-pandemic), our nation still struggles to provide food for all. Malaysia as a developing nation is generally food secure at the national level. It had recently been ranked 59th out of 117 countries by the Global Security Index with a value of 13.3.[5] Malaysia is rich in natural assets and it also produces quite a bit of its own food supply.

Although there is a reliance on external agricultural resources, Malaysia’s self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) in 2019 showed that 24 out of 42 selected agricultural commodities were more than 100% self-sufficient.[6] The case of getting Malaysia to be a food sovereign nation is something 

Source: Unsplash

While Malaysia has not reached the level of being a food sovereign nation and we still rely on imported food resources, it can be said that Malaysia has enough food to feed everyone with only 3% battling real hunger issues.[7

But it would be irresponsible and ignorant to not realise that there is a connection between the other 97% of the population and those who are hungry. So, where is that connection? 

We Are Wasting Too Much Food! 

Source: Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp)

Out of the total food waste, 3000 tonnes was still edible food! Imagine the edible food waste being redirected to a different destination instead of to the landfill. If rationed well and properly channelled, it could feed 2 million people, three meals a day. 

If these numbers are too far-reaching to relate, remember the last time you threw away your leftovers from a Grab meal or uneaten food that went bad in your fridge, or expired food stashed away in your packed pantry. All of us are guilty of food waste. 

How Can You Help Eradicate Hunger? 

We have a national problem that affects 3% of our population, but we also have a solution that doesn’t require rocket science, only your participation.

There are numerous movements to promote sustainable consumption across the nation. They aim at reducing food wastage and improving food distribution to the needy. Participate in any one of the food drives or feeding programmes or donate to these organisations because we all know the feeling of hunger, it’s a gnawing feeling of emptiness. It’s not a nice feeling and we can do something to help. 

Join Those Who Feed the Hungry

This is a non-exhaustive list of NGO, societies, and groups who have a heart for the poor and hungry. If you are part of a movement to feed the hungry, get in touch with us to have yours added to the list. 

  • The Lost Food Project –  They are a volunteer-run organization that provides people in vulnerable communities in Malaysia with surplus food; their goal is not only eliminating hunger in Malaysia but putting an end to food waste too.
  • Food Aid Foundation – They are a ‘Food Bank’ where manufacturers, distributors, wholesaler, retailers,companies or people can donate their unused or unwanted foods which will then be collected and distributed to charitable/welfare homes, volunteer welfare organisation, refugees community, poor families, destitute and soup kitchen.
  • Yayasan Food Bank – Their aim is to rescue surplus food from the manufacturer, wholesaler, hypermarket and hotel industry; sort and re-distribute it to the identified targeted B40 communities.
  • PERTIWI Soup Kitchen – They are a humanitarian food-aid service to the homeless and hard-core poor irrespective of race or religion. The areas served are Chow Kit, Kota Raya and Masjid India on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Between 550-700 packets of food are served each night.
  • Kechara Soup Kitchen – A community action group which distributes food to the homeless and urban poor in Malaysia. 
  • Rice Against Hunger (Malaysia) –  a global movement to end hunger by empowering communities, nourishing lives and responding to emergencies. 
  • Dapur Jalanan Kuala Lumpur – every Sunday, 5:30pm, at Jalan Panggong.
  • Assumption Soup Kitchen –  Every Monday & Wednesday 11am – 1pm No. 70, Jalan Templer, 46050 Petaling Jaya- Kl
  • Soup Kitchen Jinjang Kuala Lumpur & Alor Setar – This is a restaurant setting which is open to everyone and they provide daily free lunches for the urban poor and homeless in the community. There are currently two Soup Kitchens, one in Alor Setar and another in Jinjang Utara, Kuala Lumpur. Collectively we feed about 400 people a day.
  • Feeding the Needy – They aim to provide food to the homeless/urban poor/physically-challenged every Thursday in the heart of KL. Distribution areas are: off Jalan TAR near CIMB & Tune Hotel. 
  • Food Rangers – The volunteers from the food distribution arm of the Malaysia Agathiyar Universal Mission Organisation (AUM) collects excess vegetarian food from functions such as weddings, birthday parties, and house warmings, among others, and delivers them to the homeless and the poor around Klang Valley.

Contact us to improve on this list!

Explore our sources:

  1. Diana Chai, UNICEF Malaysia. (2019). Hungry in the City : Three mothers share the daily struggle of putting food on the table in Kuala Lumpur. Link.
  2. The World Bank. (2019). Malaysia Economic Monitor: Making Ends Meet. Link.
  3. Hannah Alcoseba Fernandez, Eco-Business. (2018). How to tackle Malaysia’s hidden hunger epidemic. Link.
  4. Prof Datuk Dr M Nasir Shamsudin, Universiti Putra Malaysia. (2019). Food Insecurity: Coping Strategies and Policy Responds. Link.
  5. Knoema. (2020). Global Hunger Index, 2020. Link.
  6. Department of Statistics Malaysia. (2019). Selected Agricultural Indicators, Malaysia, 2019. Link.
  7. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. (2019). Prevalence of undernourishment (%) (3-year average). Link.

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