PETALING JAYA: Leftovers from Ramadan buffets usually fill the garbage cans, but one Malaysian royal wants the excess food to fill the bellies of the homeless and urban poor instead.
This Ramadan, Selangor princess Tengku Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah has launched her very own #zerofoodwastage campaign to prevent hotels from wasting leftovers.
“I decided to kickstart the #zerofoodwastage initiative when I heard how Ramadan buffets in Malaysia throw away at least 270,000 tonnes of food,” she said in an email interview.
Major hotels in the Klang Valley have come on board the campaign, handing over their surplus food to Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK).
The food is reheated and packed by volunteers, and distributed to the homeless and urban poor through Truckerz Society, an NGO.
Tengku Zatashah said the idea formed when France passed a law that obliged supermarkets to pass on their excess food and produce to NGOs and charities.
“I would love to see this happen one day in Malaysia, so I want to reach out to more hotels, restaurants and supermarkets for #zerofoodwastage campaign so that we can distribute the food to those in need.”
Tengku Zatashah has been a regular volunteer with KSK since her first experience distributing food to the homeless and urban poor, which she described as “an eye opening and humbling experience”.
For this campaign, she estimated an average 80 to 100 people were benefiting from the excess food collected from hotels and distributed by KSK.
No initiative comes without a challenge, and Tengku Zatashah admitted facing difficulty in convincing hotels of the initiative’s benefit.
“The challenge is to convince them that the food from the buffets, instead of being thrown away, should go directly to homeless and urban poor clients that same night,” she said.
Participating hotels so far are Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Concorde Hotel Shah Alam, Sunway Resort Hotel, JW Marriot Kuala Lumpur, Palace of the Golden Horses, Impiana Hotel, Majestic Hotel, St Regis Kuala Lumpur and the Ritz Carlton Kuala Lumpur.
The Management and Science University (MSU) Malaysia is also involved, with student groups gathering excess food to be contributed to the campaign.
The Selangor princess, who is also an advocate of eco-friendly habits, turned heads at the Ramadan bazaar in Section 13, Shah Alam, recently when she and her brother, Selangor Crown Prince Tengku Amir Shah brought tiffin carriers to buy their favourite food.
She was inspired after reading The Star’s report on a suggestion by the Raja Muda of Perlis Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalullail to visit Ramadan bazaars with tiffin carriers to avoid using plastic packaging.
“I thought it was a brilliant idea and so did my brother. It’s eco-friendly, it keeps our environment clean and free from plastic, and plus, tiffin carriers are so chic and charming, a nod back to our traditional heritage,” she said.