Member update from Irene Schembri: Founder/Chairperson of The Malta Food Bank Foundation

The Malta Food Bank Foundation (MFBF) was founded in 2011 and officially registered in 2014.  It was a long road full of challenges which, with determination, good will and tenacity were overcome as they were presented.  It certainly was not easy as MFBF started off without one cent in its coffers.  The biggest challenge was finding a warehouse for which MFBF had no money to pay for rent and utility bills.  However, as I said, where there is a will there is a way!

The aims of MFBF are reducing poverty, fighting hunger and food waste, to distribute food to those in need, and promote solidarity amongst citizens in Malta and Gozo, in order to assist the joint commitment to those in need.

Following talks with different institutions the Archdiocese of Malta presented MFBF with a good sizeable warehouse from where MFBF is operating.  We do not buy any food and we do not sell food either.  All food is donated to MFBF for free and is therefore distributed for free.  Food is not distributed to individuals except for a few very rare urgent cases.  Therefore, we partner with NGOs who are offering the different social and humanitarian services that they provide.  In this way the food that is distributed to them is offered to those individuals who are in need.  This way we avoid stigmatization especially in a small country like Malta.  Moreover, these NGOs know their people and therefore they do not need to identify them as they are in their majority already being followed by social workers.

All the food that is donated to MFBF is registered and the same applies to the food that is distributed to NGOs for which they are asked to sign for on pick up.

All this work is being done on a voluntary basis.

MFBF is affiliated to FEBA which is the European Food Banks Federation, established 35 years ago, and from whom we receive a lot of support. This comes in various ways through their continuous training and knowledge of how food banks work and also advice and most of all financial assistance.

The donation of food doesn’t dwindle although sometimes the stores tend to get dry but this quickly fills up again with food.  Monetary donations are coming in from time to time and this helps us cope with the day to day costs of running a food bank.

FEBA, has recently supported us in obtaining a refrigerated/freezer van which was donated to MFBF by IHG.  This is needed due to the hot temperatures for practically 9 months of the year in Malta.

Lidl has also granted our request of supporting us with an electric palletizer which also lightens the burden of carrying out heavy quantity of food. This enabled us to start receiving donations of frozen and chilled food and make use of our walk- in freezer that came with the warehouse.

The work that the process of food banking entails is by far not an easy one. However, the satisfaction achieved from our voluntary work is unmeasurable.