Food banks appear in the most unlikely of places in Kuala Lumpur

Bar Roca staff and volunteers sorting out essentials and groceries for needy families amid Malaysia's lockdown.
Bar Roca staff and volunteers sorting out essentials and groceries for needy families amid Malaysia's lockdown.PHOTO: ANNIE MATTHEWS JACKS
Ahmad Dainey Zainuddin arranges food items given out for free on the cafe premises to those adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ahmad Dainey Zainuddin arranges food items given out for free on the cafe premises to those adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO: BERNAMA
Besut District Police Chief Supt Abdul Rozak Muhammad (right) launches the food bank set up at the Besut police headquarters.
Besut District Police Chief Supt Abdul Rozak Muhammad (right) launches the food bank set up at the Besut police headquarters.PHOTO: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR - Food banks have begun cropping up in the most unlikely of places in the Malaysian capital as the continuing lockdown takes its toll on everyone, not just the poor.

Bars have been closed since May as the number of Covid-19 cases soared, but Bar Roca has turned into a food bank.

"We have been significantly impacted by the lockdown, but fortunately we have been able to retain our staff. We got resources that we can use to help people in need," Bar Roca director Martin Jacks told The Straits Times.

The pivot was the brainchild of Mr Jacks' wife, Ms Annie Matthews, who helps to run the business. The couple decided to convert the unused space in the bar into a sorting site for groceries and other essential items.

The aid packages are then dispatched for delivery either by their own team, or by regular customers and other partners who have pitched in to help.

Donations and contributions from Bar Roca's regular customers and other benefactors go towards buying essentials and groceries in the care packages.

A number of restaurants around Kuala Lumpur that are closed under current restrictions have also been converted into drop-off points for those wanting to donate items that would supplement care packages sent out by Bar Roca.

The beneficiaries are mostly those living in low-cost flats around the capital.

To date, Bar Roca has sent out more than 190 care packages for affected families.

The lockdown - which is in its third month for most of the country - has impacted not only the poor. Some of those on the front line battling the disease are also finding it difficult to get food.

Overburdened by prolonged working hours and a heavy inflow of patients as cases continue to hit new highs, doctors and nurses at some Covid-19 assessment centres located in suburbs around the capital have not been able to get meals because most food establishments nearby are closed.

On Saturday (July 24), non-profit group Yellow House bought and packed lunches for 10 healthcare workers at a Covid-19 assessment centre located in the heart of a suburb in the capital.

Donning personal protective equipment almost all the time with hardly any break, the workers had gone hungry as they were not able to get any lunch for themselves.


To date, Bar Roca in Kuala Lumpur has sent out more than 190 care packages for affected families. PHOTOS: ANNIE MATTHEWS JACKS

Yellow House - which works mostly with marginalised communities and Malaysia's lowest-income B40 economic group - said it would seek funds to continue providing dozens of workers at the centre with meals for the next couple of weeks.

Malaysia allows restaurants to open for takeaways or deliveries during the lockdown, but many food businesses have closed down either temporarily or permanently due to a lack of customers.

People are allowed to travel only up to 10km from their residence to buy food and other essentials.

Since a strict lockdown was imposed on June 1, there have been increasing reports of Malaysians needing food aid and going hungry.

A white flag campaign launched at the end of June encouraged struggling Malaysians to raise a white flag to receive community-mobilised support and aid.

Several online platforms have also been launched to map out people in need of help and also food banks offering help, in an effort to match the two sides.