SLW visits community canteen (with photos)

     The Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, visited the Hotmeal Canteen in Sham Shui Po today (September 6) to see the operation and services provided by this community canteen.

     The Hotmeal Canteen is part of the Hotmeal Service operated by the Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service (BOKSS) in three districts, namely Sham Shui Po, Wan Chai and Kwai Tsing/Tsuen Wan, and aims at serving low-income earners in local neighbourhoods.

     Mr Cheung was first briefed by the Chief Executive Officer of BOKSS, Mr Tsang Wing-keung, on the hot meals and personalised employment counselling services offered at the canteen.

     Under the Hotmeal Service, dinner sets comprising rice and soup are supplied to the needy for $10. The service not only offers the beneficiaries a balanced diet, but also the chance to widen their social circle by communicating with others over the dining table. In addition, social workers offer employment counselling, vocational training and relevant family support services to help them improve their livelihoods and rebuild their community network.

     Mr Cheung said, "The Government has been funding short-term food assistance since 2009, with five non-governmental organisations commissioned by the Social Welfare Department to operate this service at more than 400 service points throughout the territory. Nearly 100 000 persons have benefitted so far. To better meet the needs of the service users, enhancement measures were introduced at the end of last year to expand the food variety by introducing food/meal coupons for the redemption of fresh or frozen food at wet markets and supermarkets and meals at designated restaurants. The enhanced service has been running smoothly and is welcomed by service users, according to feedback by the operating organisations.

     "On the other hand, the Government has all along been encouraging non-governmental organisations to provide food assistance in different ways, including operating community canteens. I am very impressed by the model of the BOKSS Hotmeal Service. Apart from providing quality meals at low prices under the support of the business sector, in order to ease the financial burden on the unemployed and low-income families, the users also receive support from professional and caring social workers. Most importantly, an employment service is offered to the unemployed to help them return to the job market and in turn achieve self-reliance," Mr Cheung said.

     Mr Cheung chatted with the diners at the canteen to learn about their needs. He also updated them on a range of measures introduced by the Government in the past two months to benefit the public, in particular the grassroots. These include the enhancement of the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme, the Old Age Living Allowance Scheme for the elderly in need, as well as the Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities, which already covers the Mass Transit Railway and franchised bus routes.

Ends/Thursday, September 6, 2012
Issued at HKT 18:15