A charity organization and vendors participating in a program that provides free meals for the disadvantaged yesterday urged more shops to join the initiative to help those in need.
“A timely meal could give warmth to a person and help him or her get through a low point in life,” said Wang Sheng-chi, head of the social work department at the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families.
Since the end of last month, more than 80 shops and restaurants around the nation — including those selling breakfast, noodles, boxed lunches and baked goods — have partnered with the charity to provide free meals to the disadvantaged on a daily basis.
The shops hang signboards identifying themselves as partners in the initiative and the number of claimed and still-available meals are recorded on the boards each day.
The initiative was inspired by the “suspended meal” concept recently adopted in Taiwan, which allows patrons to buy a meal at a shop for a complete stranger. The meal is claimed later by someone who cannot otherwise afford it.
Instead of collecting money from donors — something only registered charities are allowed to do in Taiwan — the partner shops are the donors themselves, the charity said.
“Sometimes food vendors prepare too much food. It’s a waste to throw it away. Why not give the extra food to someone in need?” said James Lai, the owner of Toast and Forest in Greater Taichung.
The 33 year-old, whose shop sells Western-style breakfasts and lunches, said he and his wife have been sponsoring disadvantaged children for the past seven years and now provide up to seven meals every day.
Lai Pei-chen, 47, who owns a shop that sells sausages wrapped in sticky rice in Changhua County, said she decided to join the initiative because she believes it is a blessing to be a giver.
“It takes an enormous amount of courage to ask someone for food. I think I am blessed to be able to give,” Lai said, adding that she believes the more one gives, the more one receives.
“The past two weeks should have been a slack season for me, but my sales have climbed instead,” said Lai, who hands out more than 10 servings of her sausages a day to the needy.
She said more shops in rural areas should join the initiative because government resources are scarcer in those places.
In addition to offering meals, partner shops are encouraged to report to the charity if they feel that an individual might need additional assistance. The charity will then get in touch with government agencies to offer further help, Wang said.
Information in Chinese about the shops can be found at www.ccf.org.tw/Suspended/.