Challenging times ahead: Almost 3,000 apply for aid at Caritas’ food bank, and the numbers may climb higher

Marco Carvalho

Secretary-General of Caritas Macau Paul Pun Chi Meng anticipates an increase in the number of local residents who will probably have to resort to the food relief granted by the public food bank managed by the organization. From January to the end of August, Caritas provided support to 2,959 Macau residents facing food insecurity.

The number is slightly lower than the one that was recorded last year during the same months, but the food bank’s operations, Paul Pun recalls, were suspended for over a month at the height of the health crisis that Macau experienced in late June and July, after a large local outbreak of Covid-19 was reported.

“We did not witness an increase in numbers compared to last year, but the truth is that this year we also did not offer our services for a month-and-a-half during the Covid-19 outbreak. The number is, nonetheless, very similar to what was recorded last year, which means that, most likely, we will see the volume of requests increasing in the final stretch of this year,” the secretary-general of Caritas anticipates.

 “Until now, people in need have been able to purchase food and essential goods thanks to the consumption card that was distributed by the government. It was the consumption card that helped them over the last few weeks and ensured that they had access to enough food. These people may request support from the food bank later this year, in November or December. We expect the number of individuals seeking food assistance to increase. I am thoroughly convinced that we will see such an increase,” Paul Pun reiterates.

Managed by Caritas Macau and financed by the Social Welfare Bureau, the food bank aims to guarantee the subsistence of local residents who might find themselves in a situation of food insecurity.

The collapse of Macau’s main economic indicators since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, confronted the local population with unforeseen difficulties, but Paul Pun argues that the fact that local residents are resorting to Macau’s only public food bank should not be seen as an indicator that poverty is spreading. He says, “We don’t refer to these people as being poor.  We are talking about people with low incomes. To apply for help from the food bank, they must earn less than 7,800 patacas per month and cannot have more than 39,000 patacas in their bank account.”

“Residents who meet these requirements and who have their applications approved will receive food support during 10 consecutive weeks, but if the situation doesn’t change, they can apply for 10 weeks more. This means that they can be granted food assistance 20 weeks a year,” Paul Pun adds.

Among the items that make up the weekly food basket distributed by Caritas to the local residents are staples such as pasta, rice, cooking oil and biscuits. The Social Welfare Bureau also distributes milk formula to applicants who have young children in their care.