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LCQ17: Encouraging food donation
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, in the Legislative Council today (July 13):
     It is learnt that at present, quite a number of non-governmental organisations collect surplus or soon-to-expire food from commercial organisations and then distribute the food which is still suitable for consumption to the needy. Nevertheless, it has been reported that under the impacts of the epidemic, the amount of food received by some social welfare organisations has decreased by 70 per cent in recent months, and there is also a shortage of food in food banks. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as there are views pointing out that the implementation of municipal solid waste charging (MSWC) will increase economic incentives to encourage food sellers to donate surplus food to food banks or charitable organisations, or separate food waste for recycling in order to obtain exemption from MSWC, whether the Government has measures in place to educate food sellers on proper food waste separation, and encourage them to donate surplus food which is still suitable for consumption;
(2) whether it will provide further incentives (e.g. tax concessions) to encourage food sellers to donate to non-profit-making organisations surplus food which cannot be sold but is still suitable for consumption; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) given that at present, quite a number of overseas regions have, through platforms set up via green applications, enabled food sellers to share surplus food with members of the public or sell surplus food at low prices, whether the authorities have formulated relevant policies and support measures to encourage local innovation and technology enterprises to develop those applications?
     Having consulted the Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau, the consolidated reply to questions raised by the Hon Chan Hak-kan is as follows:
(1) The Government has all along been attaching great importance to promoting food waste reduction at source and recycling. In 2013, the former Environment Bureau launched the Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign (the Campaign) to advocate a "food wise and waste less" culture, enhance public awareness of food waste issues, and instill behavioural changes across different sectors of the community in order to avoid and reduce food waste at source. Through various publicity and education programmes, the Campaign has been disseminating information on food waste reduction to the commercial and industrial sector, including encouraging food manufacturers and retailers to donate surplus food to non-profit making organisations, practicing source separation and collection of unavoidable food waste, and delivering the collected food waste to Organic Resources Recovery Centre Phase 1 of the Government for transforming into energy and resources.

     In support of the Campaign, the Government has been funding local non-profit making organisations in running food recovery projects through the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) since 2014. Surplus food were collected from the commercial sector and donated to the needy to achieve the goal of caring for society and reducing food waste generation. Apart from collecting surplus food, some of the funded organisations held promotional and educational activities to encourage stakeholders to treasure food and reduce food waste. As of June 2022, the ECF has approved a total of 79 such projects with funding support of about $164 million, with the aim to collect around 16 900 tonnes of surplus food and donating them to about 28 million headcounts.
(2) The food recovery projects funded by the ECF typically includes funding of non-profit making organisations to collect surplus food from food retail outlets and delivering them to distribution points for free. This arrangement helps food retailers to reduce the cost of delivery and disposal of food waste, and provides incentives for them to donate surplus food. Furthermore, the implementation of the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Charging would provide additional incentives for food retailers, as they do not have to pay for the MSW charge for food donated.
(3) The Government has been encouraging and supporting non-governmental organisations, academics and research institutes, and private companies to implement projects that will help decarbonisation and environmental protection in Hong Kong through the ECF, Sustainable Development Fund, and Green Tech Fund. Local institutes, and innovation and technology companies interested in the development of green mobile applications can apply for grants from the relevant funding schemes.
     Furthermore, to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of food support service, the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund (SIE Fund) (Note 1) commissioned its first flagship project in 2016 and engaged an organisation to launch Hong Kong's first all-dimensional food support collaborative platform FOOD-CO to connect different parties, such as food support service operators, food donors, supporting organisations, volunteers, to distribute various types of food to the needy. Additional funding was granted under the SIE Fund in mid-2019 to take forward the second stage of the project FOOD-CO 2.0 to step up advocacy for food donation with wider adoption of information technology, including development of an automated one-stop logistics system, a one-stop volunteer recruitment and training platform, an automatic donation process facilitated by an artificial intelligence chat robot. As at end May 2022, a total of 322 food support service points and 813 food donors from entreprises and organisations have been registered under FOOD-CO. Food donation transactions covering about 1 400 tonnes of food of a total value of about $123 million have been completed.
Note 1: The SIE Fund was established in 2013 and is overseen by the SIE Fund Task Force under the Commission on Poverty. By facilitating social innovation and cultivating social entrepreneurship, the SIE Fund aims to make an impact in alleviating poverty and social exclusion, promote social integration as well as enhance the well-being and cohesion of society.
Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Issued at HKT 15:18
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