By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Four food banks will be set up in the second half of this year and about 6,000 citizens, including the homeless, will benefit from the project, the social welfare chief said yesterday.
Speaking after the Social Affairs Committee meeting, Ip Peng Kin told reporters four local social service organisations, after going through an assessment, will be entrusted to run the three food banks in the Macau peninsula and another one in Taipa island.
The exact locations of the service will be decided by the operators.
Meanwhile, the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS) will act as the “key coordinator to push forward the project and serve as a platform”, as well as be responsible for food procurement, Ip said.
The interim measure of a food bank, the social welfare chief asserted, is to help those “who are not eligible to apply for the bureau’s regular financial assistance or who encounter temporary financial difficulties that urgently require food assistance.”
“The service targets will be mainly people, including the homeless, who are financially disadvantaged but in the margin of our subsidy schemes,” Ip said.
He also said that the salary cap will be set at 4,000 patacas per month, but added that applicants’ “actual needs” will also be taken into account when assessing applications.
After being approved, individuals or families will be able to collect no more than 30 patacas worth of food daily for a period of six weeks from their designated food bank.
If needed, one can request to extend his or her food assistance for another term of six weeks subject to government approval.
Ip said items procured by the IAS and then distributed by the food banks will be mainly rice, noodles, biscuits and canned food.
He also said that the government is going to inject about 10 million patacas into the project, and estimated around 6,000 individuals, including the homeless, will be eligible to benefit from the service.
“The number of beneficiaries could change depending on Macau’s economic outlook. If there is an increasing demand for the service, the government will put in more resources accordingly,” Ip added.
After the final proposal for the food bank project is outlined next month, the social welfare chief said 20 social service organisations, which have assisted in the running of the IAS special living allowance scheme, will be invited to be part of the efforts to set up a “service network.”
The participating organisations will transfer food bank applications, after giving them a preliminary review, to the IAS which will then take three days to assess each application.
Qualified individuals will then be able to visit immediately their designated locations to collect food items.
Ip said the IAS will keep looking at each approved application to see whether the applicants could be included in the regular financial assistance schemes or are in need of other kinds of social support.
Among the 20 social organisations, the IAS will select four to operate the food banks.
“The assessment criteria will look at mainly the operation budget proposed and service capacity,” Ip said.
“The four selected operators should also be able to make use of their own resources to call for food donations from society in order to serve more people in need,” he added.
In January, the IAS visited its counterpart in Hong Kong and the two local social organisations that run food banks, with an aim to study their experience for its own project in Macau.
At present, the IAS regular financial assistance network consists of about 6,000 families on an annual basis.