Incitement is the implementing agency for the Volunteering International Professionals (VIP) Fellowship Programme 2017, a National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) project monitored and overseen by the National Strategy Unit (NSU) of the Malaysian Ministry of Finance. More information about this collaboration between Incitement and the Malaysian Ministry of Finance can be found here.
The VIP Fellowship programme took place from August 19th till December 17th 2017. During these 4 months, a total of 10 social impact projects were implemented with the help of 50 international professional volunteers, touching the lives of 12,840 beneficiaries.
This is Impact Project 3: Grub Meals
This project combated food wastage by funnelling surplus food items back to the community, while subsidising lower income families with basic necessities. It impacted 100 families by reducing their daily expenditure on food and prevented more than 2,000 kilograms of food waste in a period of four months.
Key project outcomes
- 2,000kg of waste food saved
- 300 families impacted
- 2 workshops were designed and implemented
- 2 training modules were created
- 3 partnerships with relevant organisations were established
- 1 government partnership was established
Grub Meals is a mobile, social supermarket dedicated to food waste, selling surplus products to underprivileged communities. Other than the significant impact this has on the environment in terms of preventing CO2 emissions, thus reducing the greenhouse effect, five percent of Grub Cycle’s proceeds were put towards subsidising low income families with basic food necessities.
Together with the VIP 2017 Fellows, Grub Cycle contributed towards solving the following societal issues:
- There is 38,000 tonnes of daily food waste in Malaysia, of which 15,000 tonnes are edible. 3,000 tonnes of edibles are wasted in Kuala Lumpur alone. In total, this amounts to enough food to provide 2.2 million people with three meals per day.
- This food waste results in 280,000 kiloton of annual CO2 emissions.
- 30% of the monthly expenditure of low income families in Malaysia goes to food. Due to the yearly increase of the price of food, low income families have less available expenditure for necessities such as education and medication.
The Grub Meals VIP impact project helped Grub Cycle to focus on reducing food waste and raise awareness around this problem, as well as subsidise low income families with the proceeds gained from selling food waste from supermarkets.
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Since launching their social enterprise in 2016, the Host organisation has prevented more than 2,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions. And in the four-month duration of the VIP Programme alone, the Fellows managed to double Grub Cycle’s numbers in terms of reducing food waste.
By repurposing food that would otherwise be thrown as waste, Grub Meals reduces Malaysia’s annual CO2 emissions, which in turn helps to reduce the greenhouse effect. Reducing food waste has great impact on the environment in terms of reducing landfills, which means it also decreases government spending with regard to the creation of (new) garbage areas.
“It has a big impact in terms of flooding, which is a big issue in Malaysia.” explains Faith Pienaar, an international Fellow from South Africa. “By reducing food waste and raising awareness around the issue, in the long run we can save the environment, reduce the risk of national disasters and ensure future generations continued access to Malaysia’s natural resources.”
In addition to the impact on the environment, reducing food waste can also support low income communities and families. Food prices have increased by 20% since 2010, according to Grub Cycle, which leaves less disposable income to spend on crucial necessities, such as education and medication. “By offering food products at bargain prices, we can reduce monthly expenditure on groceries, allowing low income families to save the extra money or put it towards necessities such as their children’s education”, as Grub Cycle founder Redza explains. “Moreover, we donate 5% of our proceeds toward subsidising low income families by giving them monthly ‘Grub Bags’ which contain the basic food items like sugar, salt, eggs, rice, and cooking oil.”
After supporting their beneficiaries by repurposing food waste for 1.5 years and offering them surplus food items for bargain prices, Grub Meals finally decided to start a food truck with the help of the VIP 2017 Fellows. With the Grub Meals food truck project, the Fellows targeted 300 families from Kampung Bukit Lancong in Shah Alam. These families usually have an average salary of MYR 1,200, according to Grub Cycle, while the nearest supermarket is 15 kilometers away from their village. The Fellows managed to bring surplus food items to this low income area for a period of two hours a day with the food truck, giving the community the opportunity to purchase groceries directly from Grub Meals at a low rate. Now, the community in the village no longer has to drive all the way to the supermarket to purchase their groceries, which would be higher priced when purchased there. As such, the money that they save by purchasing from Grub Meals can be used for other things for the family, such as education for their children of medication for their elderly.
We are now starting to see that Malaysians are changing their mindsets about alternative ways to giving to charity. We notice that the awareness around food waste and the impact it has on the environment is getting bigger.
Grub Meals specifically targets low income families in Klang and Kuala Lumpur. In Klang especially, according to International Fellow Rebecca Sedaminou from France, when a perishable product is about to expire within 1-3 months, supermarkets usually put them on a special shelf dedicated to products that are soon to expire. “However, they are not being marketed, nor are their customers being told that these products can be purchased for lower than market prices. When a supermarket has a surplus, it is usually either thrown away or shipped back to the manufacturer, but only rarely given away to charity”, she explains.
The challenge in Malaysia is the perception that giving away unmarketable items to charity, especially food items that are about to expire, is not very charitable at all. Grub Cycle, therefore, buys those soon to expire perishables from supermarkets and puts them for sale online or distributes them for free through Grub Meals. By doing this, the opportunity to purchase food products at lower than market prices is available to everyone. The impact is enhanced by this opportunity being put online, and consumers being able to procure their purchased products directly online and get them delivered straight to their doorstep, without having to travel to and from the store, therefore, reducing carbon emissions.
By reducing food waste and raising awareness around the issue, in the long run we can save the environment, reduce the risk of national disasters and ensure future generations continued access to Malaysia’s natural resources.
“The best thing about it”, explains Redza, “is that people can view the statistics that show how many kilograms of C02 emissions they’ve personally saved by buying the products, as well as how much money they just saved. We are now starting to see that Malaysians are changing their mindsets about alternative ways to giving to charity. We notice that the awareness around food waste and the impact it has on the environment is getting bigger. And because of that increased awareness, they start buying from Grub Cycle more and more.” The expertise of the highly qualified VIP 2017 Fellows contributed to Grub Meal’s focus on raising awareness among food manufacturers, supermarkets and other strategic partners to understand the concept and to create more impact through combatting food wastage.
The VIP 2017 Fellows were also successful in creating new partnerships, for example, with Yellow House KL, another VIP 2017 Host organisation. “We provided beneficiaries with various entrepreneurship opportunities by organising workshops about processing surplus vegetables into products that people would buy.”, explains Aainaa. “We helped the Yellow House KL beneficiaries in the same way, by providing them with the skills to make jams and chutneys out of the surplus vegetables and also provided an online platform for them to sell it. Once they came up with their own line of food items, we branded it as theirs under Grub Cycle and distributed it for them. We provide them the platform to start, and once they have sold enough products, they are able to start their own line of products separately from us.”
By offering food products at bargain prices, we can reduce monthly expenditure on groceries, allowing low income families to save the extra money or put it towards necessities such as their children’s education.
Since launching their social enterprise in 2016, Grub Cycle has prevented more than 2,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions. In the four-month duration of the VIP 2017 Programme alone, the Fellows managed to double Grub Cycle’s numbers in terms of reducing food waste. Overall, the Fellows succeeded in connecting the Host organisation with more stakeholders, created three partnerships with other social enterprises and one partnership with a government entity. More importantly, the Fellows kickstarted Grub Meals and effectively boosted its growth, enabling Grub Meals to grow its revenue, reduce more food waste and create more awareness around this issue.
Learn more about the VIP 2017 Fellowship Programme: VIP.org.my