KOTA KINABALU: It’s 2.30pm on a Friday and a group of middle-aged women have gathered outside the Restoran Selera Masiun, an eatery near Inanam town here.
They have come to the eatery for food but not the cooked variety that is usually served there. Instead they have lined up to receive a bag filled with a packet of rice, sugar and flour each weighing 1kg, dry noodles, five eggs and a can of sardines.
The women are asked to write their names on a book, many just giving a single name, before they receive a plastic bag of the sundry goods.
Every Friday and Saturday, the coffee shop becomes a distribution point for a food bank set up by housewife Rosnah Mansaat and her two friends who wish to be known only as Fatin and Ummi.
The food bank began operating on Oct 23 with about 100 bags of sundries given out on the first two days alone after the three friends passed the word about it through social media.
The three women each spend “several hundred ringgit” to stock up on the food bank though there have been some contributions from their family and friends.
Though the authorities have to date distributed nearly 120,000 food baskets to Sabah households, apart from Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) cash assistance, Rosnah believes food banks are necessary as some needy families may not be getting any help during this conditional movement control order (CMCO) period.
“Those who come to us are often daily wage earners such as coffee shop workers or those working as helpers for the pasar malam stalls and have been jobless for months. They are the most vulnerable and need help,” said Rosnah.
It is no wonder then that similar food banks have been set up at other localities around Kota Kinabalu. Rosnah said she was aware of another food bank at Inanam, and also at Menggatal, Penampang and Putatan.
Recently, Chief Minister Hajiji Noor reminded the authorities to speed up the delivery of the food aid to families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For Rosnah, setting up the food bank centre was a safer alternative instead of sending food to families in need as she had done when the MCO was first imposed last March.
“I started seeing appeals for food on Facebook and I thought people who were asking for such help must be really desperate. It broke my heart as my family had enough to eat. I had to do something,” said Rosnah.
Contacting those seeking help, Rosnah asked what they needed.
”Those who appeal for food are desperate and are willing to set aside their pride to make sure their children have something to eat,” she said.
Initially, she would go shopping to buy the groceries and send them to the needy families but earlier this month, as the number of Covid-19 infections in Sabah reached three digits her sister, a nurse, advised her to stop.
“I couldn’t stop and yet I had to look after my health. After much thinking and discussing with my family, the food bank was the best answer,” said Rosnah.
For many Sabahan families in dire straits food banks like the one set up by Rosnah and her two friends can stave off hunger.
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