‘What a Waste’ rescues untouched food to feed the needy

‘What a Waste’ food warriors at work. (WaW pic)

SUBANG JAYA: A fireman races against time to put out a blaze. A food warrior races against time to rescue perishable food to ensure it ends up in the bellies of those who need it most.

Meet Malaysians Angela Tan and Alvin Chen, founder and co-founder of an amazing food donation organisation called What a Waste (WaW).

Alvin Chen, co-founder of What a Waste.

Tan, who has always harboured an interest in community projects, even as a young architectural student, started WaW single-handedly.

Inspired by her efforts, Chen an architect as well, joined the project before long, bringing along his vast knowledge of working with affordable housing schemes in Malaysia and other developing countries.

Chen says WaW is attempting to revolutionise the current methods of food distribution by linking food donors directly to needy communities and deserving families.

The original plan was to develop an app-based platform. Unfortunately due to financial constraints, WaW is solely focusing on the physical demonstration of how the app will function.

“In no time, we managed to group together some really committed like-minded individuals.

“All of them have day jobs – physiotherapists, lawyers, food nutritionists, basically people who can really substantiate the aim of WaW,” Chen told FMT Lifestyle during a recent interview.

WaW is now a team of eight core members who work with over 30 food warriors. Their youngest is only eight years old.

‘What a Waste’ founder, Angela at work preparing food from rescued ingredients. (WaW pic)

It’s a very challenging task, according to Chen because members have to act quickly once a food donor makes the call.

Take for instance when someone calls WaW informing them of an event at the office where there is excess food in need of rescuing.

The closest food warriors are then notified and come fully prepared to deal with any eventuality like handling either halal or non-halal food, pre-packed food or food that requires packing.

“The ones that we are more popular with are the event-based rescue missions. We originally did not fixate on food rescues from weddings.

“It somehow just kicked off after a couple requested we rescue the surplus food at their wedding. We shared the post on Facebook and it garnered more than a hundred thousand views,” beamed Chen.

Those wishing to donate food are reminded to maintain hygiene at all times. (WaW pic)

WaW has been booked through to October this year for food rescue missions at weddings.

In the span of 11 months, they have received an overwhelming response from Malaysians. Chen adds that over 300 people have written to them requesting to be part of the cause.

So what takes place during a typical food rescue mission at a wedding?

  • The identified beneficiary is notified a few days before the wedding so they can be on standby mode with plates and containers on the ready.
  • The moment WaW gets the green light from the person in charge of the event, they suit-up in gloves, caps and face masks to ensure hygiene is maintained throughout the rescue mission.
  • The team makes their way in a single line into the allocated space and transfers the excess food without disturbing the event.
  • The food is packed into containers and loaded onto awaiting vehicles.
  • Once at the beneficiary’s place, the gathered families will transfer the food being donated into ready plates and containers.
  • Once the food is transferred, the team collects the food containers, washes it and ensures it is thoroughly sanitised.

“Someone will have a lot of washing to do that day,” jokes Chen.

(L): Food packing in progress. (R): The neatly packed food is ready for delivery to the nearest beneficiary. (WaW pic)

“In just 11 months, with our current capacity and team, we have successfully performed over 120 food rescue missions.

“Through these, we have rescued close to 3,000 kilos of food. This is good, untouched food,” explains Chen.

But how does one accurately picture 3,000 kilos of food?

“A packet of chicken rice is about 350 grams. Do the mathematics – this is similar to donating 6,000 individual packets of chicken rice.

“It gives us the confidence and comfort that even though we are a small team, we have done so much.

“Imagine if each Malaysian participated in a similar manner. Instead of binning all that good food, just call or text us and we will do our best to reach you,” Chen encourages.

More than 100 kilos of excess food is rescued from a wedding. (WaW pic)

Every year during festive seasons, tonnes of good food end up in the dustbin. This year, Malaysians can do the right thing and call WaW so that those in most need of nourishment get to eat a good, hot meal free of charge.

What a Waste (WaW)
Contact: Subang Jaya / Glenmarie / Sunway / TTDI / Bangsar South
018-6666102 or 012-9698984
Email: [email protected]
Facebook and Instagram: whatawaste.my