Penang hawkers at Batu Lanchang Food Court team up to give out free meals

·3-min read
Hawkers from the Batu Lanchang Food Court are giving away 20 packets of economy rice and 20 packets of noodles for free to help those in need July 2, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Hawkers from the Batu Lanchang Food Court are giving away 20 packets of economy rice and 20 packets of noodles for free to help those in need July 2, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, July 2 — A group of hawkers who were badly hit due to the restrictions on dining in and the Covid-19 pandemic have come together to help others in need.

The Batu Lanchang Food Court hawkers started collecting donations from their friends on June 30 to start a free meal drive that they launched today.

The spokesman, Goh Kok Joo, said it is a win-win plan for both hawkers and people in need.

“I blasted out our plan on WhatsApp two days ago and word spread within a day, we’ve collected about RM5,000 in donations,” he told Malay Mail.

He said the plan is also helping the hawkers at the food court as the donations collected will be used to pay the hawkers to prepare the free meals.

“This is our white flag movement to help those who can’t afford to buy food, anyone can come to the entrance of the food court and pick up the free meals,” he said.

As a start, 20 packets of economy rice and 20 packets of noodles will be given out between noon and 2pm at the entrance of the food court daily from today onwards.

“The type of free meals will change daily but there will be two choices each day, either rice or noodles,” he said.

He said they had initially thought of distributing free food to the poor, usually gathered at public places like at the Goddess of Mercy Temple in George Town, but many other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are already doing that.

“Then we realised that this time around, it was not only the hardcore poor and those living in the streets who are suffering. Middle-income people, especially those who have suddenly lost their jobs or income, are also suffering and most people would not have thought to offer help to this group,” he said.

He said many in the middle income group who have lost their jobs and income would not feel comfortable to publicly ask for food or help.

“So, we decided to give out the food at the food court so they can come and pick up the food without needing to beg or ask for help,” he said.

He said business at the food court had dropped by 80 per cent since the start of the full lockdown on June 1.

There are about 80 hawkers in the food court but due to the restrictions on dining in during phase one of the National Recovery Plan (NRP), many of the hawkers have temporarily shut their stalls.

Goh said about 60 per cent of the stalls have been temporarily shuttered due to slow business during Phase One of the NRP where dine-in is prohibited.

“About 40 per cent of the stalls are still operating for takeaway and delivery but business is still slow, it is still less than half of what it used to be,” he said.

He said business was usually brisk in the food court in the afternoons as it is next to the Batu Lanchang afternoon market but now, after 2pm, it would be quiet.

“There are hardly any customers after 2pm unlike previously so many of the hawkers in this food court are also hard hit,” he said.

He hoped that more people will donate to the cause so that they can prepare more free meals for the needy and at the same time, drum up some business for the hawkers at the food court.

Goh said Batu Lanchang assemblyman Ong Ah Teong has donated RM1,000 to the cause and that the hawkers are working with his office to get word out to people in the constituency.

A donation box will be placed at the entrance of the food court so well-wishers are welcomed to drop in any amount in the box.


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