Virus Brings Surge In Demand From City’s Hungry: How This Hong Kong Charity Is Dealing With Pandemic
5 Mins Read
Editor’s Note: we are publishing this letter by the team at Feeding Hong Kong to share the incredible challenges facing charities and NGOs during the coronavirus pandemic. Access to funding, supplies and logistics are all compromised at the moment but charities such as Feeding Hong Kong provide what we believe to be essential roles in helping the most vulnerable members of society, many of whom are being forgotten in these trying times, or don’t have access to governmental channels of support. In Feeding Hong Kong’s case, they are also helping to alleviate some of the biggest environmental issues facing Hong Kong today, namely food waste. If the below moves you, please share; and if you can, donate – links at the bottom.
By The Feeding Hong Kong Team
The impact of the coronavirus has been felt acutely across Hong Kong and in these challenging times those that are vulnerable are struggling more than ever. At Feeding Hong Kong, we collect surplus products from companies and redistribute them to charities feeding people in need. In the past month, we have experienced a surge in demand for key staples and hygiene products from frontline charities across the city – a demand that only looks set to continue. However, at the same time, we have faced a series of disruptions to normal business operations, which have resulted in both loss of income and rising operational costs.
Feeding HK’s response to the impact of the pandemic
Firstly, our normal channels of surplus food have been disrupted. For example, our airport programme dropped by 14% in February and as of this week is down 50%. Meanwhile, donations from retailers, such as supermarkets and bakeries, have in many cases stopped as these business deal with their own disruptions. As such, we have been investing more time and money in food sourcing in order to boost our inventory and be able to continue our support to frontline charities facing increasing demand for food assistance. For example, last month we increased donations from our wholesale programme by 37% by partnering with donors who are struggling with backlogged supply chains. We also did a push for food drives which resulted in a 295% increase against expected individual food donations in February. Finally, we have set up a new “FHK Essentials” fund to be able to direct financial donations towards the bulk purchase of key staples such as rice. By supplementing our surplus donations with more purchased food, we are seeking to bridge the gap between our current supply challenges and the most pressing needs of the community.
Secondly, our normal channels of distribution have been disrupted. After Chinese New Year, 75% of our charity network scaled back or paused their programmes due to safety concerns. As of this week, 30%-50% have closed or are running significantly reduced services. Charities providing food assistance for seniors in community centres, or running tutorial and after school programmes for children are those most affected. Those that are operational have in many instances changed their method of distribution e.g. from hot meals to food parcels. In order to keep stock moving to where it is needed most – and also crucially avoid a backlog of stock in our warehouse due to cancelled pick-ups – we have ramped up investment in deliveries.
Finally, we have faced a significant drop in volunteers – 80% in February – which in normal times provide a vital source of manpower and underpin our operations. A particular challenge has been the cancellation of all corporate groups, which is not only the bulk of this manpower but also an essential source of revenue. To address this, we have recruited an additional Driver and Operations Assistant and adopted an agile working approach. This involves existing team members adjusting work schedules, responsibilities and priorities to ensure the most immediate needs of the community are being addressed.
These operational changes are essential to ensure food continues to get to those that are most vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19. However, they require investment beyond what we had budgeted for this year. For example, our 3PL logistics costs increased by 45% in February whilst the implementation of additional hygiene measures has doubled our cleaning budget. As such, our most urgent need at this time is additional funding.
Feeding HK’s most urgent need
Given the impact of last year’s protests – which also contributed to a spike in running costs and a fall in fundraising – funding which we would normally expect from volunteer activities, school events and corporate partnerships is already less than forecast. Meanwhile, we need to urgently invest in additional manpower, transportation, logistics materials and food sourcing, including the procurement of key staples, to bolster the day-to-day operations of The FHK Foodbank.
We urgently require additional funding in order to ensure the continued provision of food and hygiene products to our charity network – 134 frontline NGOs across the city – and in so doing support those most in need in Hong Kong at this challenging time.
Help us keep our warehouse open, trucks on the road and food assistance flowing to those that need support the most by making a financial donation to Feeding Hong Kong.
Everyday, we rescue, sort, store and redistribute food to local charities free of charge. This allows our partners to redirect funds they would otherwise spend on food to extending direct service in their community. By choosing to support Feeding Hong Kong, you are supporting a network of charities across the city and will help feed those that are most vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19.
How you can help to feed Hong Kong
We have launched an individual giving campaign called Food Matters to encourage people to sign up as monthly donors. For as little as HK$15 a day – half the cost of a regular coffee – you can support 3 meals a day for those most in need.
We have set up a dedicated fund called FHK Essentials to direct financial donations towards the bulk purchase of key staples. These donations will be specifically directed towards shelter services and other hot meal food programmes. You can donate to FHK Essentials by simply quoting “FHK Essentials” when making your donation to Feeding Hong Kong.
Donate your Asia Miles
Donate your Asia Miles: Another way to make a meaningful donation to Feeding Hong Kong is to consider donating your Asia Miles. For as little as 1,820 miles you can help support 20 meals for someone in need.
Lead image courtesy of SCMP Pictures.