Taichung food bank provides personalized aid

PROVIDING A CHOICE::The supermarket-like facility allows disadvantaged families to walk through its aisles and choose products best suited to their specific needs

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, Dec 03, 2012 - Page 3

A recently opened food bank in Greater Taichung, which is operated similarly to a supermarket, offers those in financial difficulty a way to get what they need to sustain themselves, free of charge and in a way that respects their dignity.

Visitors to the food bank can choose what they want to eat and what they need to eat at the facility, the first of its kind in Taiwan, said Philip Chen (陳堅智), secretary-general of the Taiwan People’s Food Bank Association.

One of the most important goals of a food bank is to reduce the waste of resources, said Chen, who is a driving force behind the facility, which opened in late August.

Food banks donate food and other daily necessities to those in need to help them and also help reduce the waste of resources.

Most of the existing food banks in Taiwan simply give away food packs, without giving recipients any options, Chen said, adding that products still go to waste if the recipients are unable to use them due to, for example, age or other personal circumstances.

Food packs handed out by local food banks are not usually tailored to the needs of infants or senior citizens, he added.

However, at the supermarket-like facility disadvantaged families can walk through aisles and choose products best suited to their needs.

Food products ranging from rice, noodles and cookies to canned food and infant formula milk powder are available at the facility.

Other products include tissues, stationery, children’s shoes, diapers, toothbrushes and soap.

Most local food banks do not provide milk powder or diapers, said Jeff Chen, vice president of the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China’s Taichung branch, which is operating the facility in conjunction with the Taichung municipal government.

All available items are donated by companies, schools and individuals, he said, adding that the city government also purchases items to give away.

The food bank is opened once a month and those wishing to make use of the facility need to register first, Jeff Chen said, although he added that the facility is also open to those who need food urgently.

On average, the food bank serves 250 households in Greater Taichung each month, said Vicky Chen, a staff member of the Red Cross Society’s Taichung branch.

The facility has received positive feedback from the public.

“The provision of milk powder and diapers are of great help to me,” a single mother of a two-year-old boy said.

During her second visit, the 34-year-old said she hoped the services of the food bank would be expanded.

“In the future, we will aim to open the food bank to the public more than once a month,” Vicky Chen said, adding that to that end, more food and other products will have to be collected.

There are 27 food banks in Taichung, serving about 2,500 households every month, she added.