Report From The Field:
Conversations, Connections, and Ceremony in Asia
(L to R) Jeff Klein with Phillip Chen, Taiwan People's Food Bank Association Secretary-General in Taipei.
By Jeff Klein, President and CEO
How will Asia feed its growing population?
On a recent trip to Asia, I had the unique opportunity to focus on this question — and see how food banking is part of the solution — from several different vantage points as I:
- joined an international group of thought leaders convened by The Economist in Hong Kong to discuss issues relating to hunger in Asia;
- visited food banks and the agencies they serve in Hong Kong and Taiwan, allowing me to witness first-hand how food banking is helping to alleviate hunger; and
- participated in an official ceremony recognizing the certification of Taiwan People’s Food Bank Association (TPFBA) as member of The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN).
All along the way, I met with innovative and generous people representing businesses, governments, and social service organizations who are ready, willing, and able to help us support food banking in Asia.
Besides the burden of feeding more than half the world’s population, Asia faces other complex challenges including climate change, land and water constraints, growing urban-rural disparities, and dietary and health shifts resulting in nutrition and growing obesity issues. Coming face-to-face with both the growing need and significant challenges in the countries I visited was eye-opening. The problems of growing population and hunger are widespread throughout Asia, and we will need to help find different solutions to take into account the area’s many cultures and customs.
Being fully immersed in timely dialogue with thought leaders and with food banking activities on the ground was extremely beneficial. I came away with a much deeper appreciation of the realities of what Asia needs now and for the future, and I have a better understanding of how GFN can help.
Because the trip gave me the opportunity to build relationships and make new connections with dedicated “doers” who want to help us strengthen food banking in Asia, I feel confident that these conversations and observations will lead to action.
Here is a snapshot of my trip:
The Economist "Feeding the World" Conference, Hong Kong
Earlier this year, I was asked to be on an advisory board for an Asian-specific summit that was part of The Economist "Feeding the World" Conference series. I worked with a number of global food and policy experts to develop content, and then attended the summit in Hong Kong.
Working with The Economist, a highly respected convener, was an amazing opportunity for GFN and me. The conference drew an impressive group of leaders at the highest levels across industry, agribusiness, and advocacy including BASF Group, Cargill, Monsanto, PepsiCo, Syngenta, UN World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Food Policy Research Institute, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Bank.
Watch Jeff's interview at the conference
The conference included panel discussions on issues that threaten the region and collaborative working sessions that challenged the group to develop ideas for solutions. I spoke on a health and nutrition panel addressing the area’s “double burden” – meaning Asia is dealing with the problems of rising diabetes and obesity and the problems of poor nutrition and hunger at the same time.
Celebrating Progress in Taiwan
I was honored to participate in an official ceremony marking GFN’s certification of the Taiwan People’s Food Bank Association (TPFBA). This was an incredible, formal event in Taipei, with approximately 250 attendees including TPFBA secretary-general, Philip Chen, prominent local dignitaries, several cabinet members and senior policy makers, and many members of the media. David Chaung and Lawrence Liu, both members of the TPFBA Board of Directors were also in attendance.
The media attention surrounding this ceremony underscored the importance Taiwan places on the relationship with GFN, and put a spotlight on our organization’s value in helping countries find sustainable solutions to hunger and food insecurity.
After the ceremony, I visited supporters of food banks across the world including Carrefour, Mondelēz International (formerly Kraft Foods), the local Lions Club and Lions Club International Director Jui-Tai Chang, and several agencies supported by the food bank. I was especially touched by the generosity of a local baker who has a true passion to help the children of Taipei. After Chen told him about a local agency that runs a home for troubled youth, this wonderful baker made a commitment to provide bread each day to ensure these children don't go hungry.
This trip drove home the importance of our work within a distinct culture. There is still much to be done, but we are off to a great start thanks to the hard work the local team and its board are doing to accelerate the development of food banking in Taiwan.
(L to R), Philip Chen, TPFBA Secretary-General, and Jeff Klein, GFN President and CEO, met with a local baker who provides bread to feed children in Taipei.
Jeff Klein, GFN President and CEO, provides information about GFN to dignitaries in Taiwan.
Making Connections with Smart, Engaged People who Support our Mission
One of the priorities of my trip to Asia was to find ways to advance the progress of food banking in Hong Kong. I did this by getting a better sense of the political landscape, learning more about the needs of the people and the resource requirements of Feeding Hong Kong (the local GFN member), and by engaging supporters to help mobilize resources on a local level.
Many of the people I met with were unaware of the severity of the issue of hunger across Asia and the concept of food banking. I was thrilled with the response I received when I explained how food banking is a real solution to help the hungry and reduce waste. Many of the people I met with – including individuals representing global corporations and organizations – expressed interest in supporting our work.
For example, I was able to introduce our leadership team at the India FoodBanking Network (IFBN) to several relevant company representatives – including a major retailer active in India, an organic food company, and a large public irrigation company – all of whom expressed willingness to explore collaboration. I also had great conversations with representatives of BASF and Cargill. These conversations are ongoing – we are following up on every single one of them to find more and better ways to work together.