An advocate for sustainable food systems, founder of Malaysia’s first sustainable food bank that is feeding Malaysians and reducing food waste in the country. She was also influential in passing the first ever food waste law in October 2019 and The Lost Food Project was one of the founding partners of the Malaysian government-led national food bank programme.
Food waste has been Suzanne Mooney’s passion since waitressing in a Cape Town restaurant in 1995, leading her to start a food distribution initiative with a soup kitchen. So when her family moved to Malaysia, she felt compelled to continue her mission to fight food waste in her new home.
According to the World Bank’s Malaysia Economic Monitor - Making Ends Meet report released in 2019, nearly 3 in 10 Malaysians feel that they do not have enough money to buy food. However, the Solid Waste Corporation reports that Malaysians generate a whopping 16,688 tonnes of food waste on a daily basis, which is enough to feed 15.9 million people three times a day.
Suzanne with the TLFP Pasar Borong team, loading a 5T truck with fresh vegetables for the PPR B40 communities
The first ever food collected for TLFP was from Jason’s in Feb 2016
In 2015 shortly after the family moved to Malaysia, Suzanne founded the NGO, The Lost Food Project, along with a set of like-minded parents, that rescues quality nutritious food that would otherwise end up in landfill. TLFP redistributes the food and other essential items to the most vulnerable in Malaysia, regardless of religion, gender, or ethnic groups. For the first 18 months that her organisation was founded, she bore the expenses and has now collectively received RM 679,852 from grants and fundraising events in 2019. Now, TLFP is very excited to have recently been able to expand the operations into Johor Bahru and Sabah.
Suzanne and her team vetted charities and had a rotation of 4-5 food pick-ups each week that would collect food from supermarkets and send it to assigned charities. As the number of food sources grew, she expanded her operations to a warehouse unit within the Red Crescent HQ in KL and received their first truck courtesy of donations from ‘Delivering Better Lives’.
To date, TLFP has collectively distributed over 4.9 million meals (will be over 5 million by end of the year). TLFP has rescued over 1.5 million kg of food which equates to over 3.75 million kg CO 2 equivalent.
The first ever pick up from BIG supermarkets
Most notably, she and her organisation were appointed as strategic partners of Yayasan Food Bank, Malaysia’s first national government led food bank under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs as part of the Food Bank Malaysia programme in 2018. TLFP have also worked with government on the Food Donor Protection Bill, which was approved by the Dewan Rakyat (in October 2019).
In parliament for the passing of the first ever food waste law being passed in Malaysia (with TLFP colleagues & Minister Saifuddin and his team, Oct 2019)
Her work with the Lost Food Project and beyond has resulted in several achievements for The Lost Food Project including the UN Sustainable Development Goal #2; Zero Hunger, The Best Social Impact SME Award At the Europa Award For Sustainability in 2019, Award for SME with the Best Social Impact in 2017, and more. She has also contributed to her own column in Malaysia’s leading English newspaper, The Star titled “Love Food, Hate Waste” throughout 2018 and 2019.
Suzanne has also mentored many people in her organisation most particularly, their current General Manager, Syazwan Rahimy. Her education team actively collaborates with many schools and universities conducting activities, games, tasks and composting projects with the objective of changing behaviours of food waste and sustainability at a young age.
With the Duchess of Cornwall, visiting one of TLFP’s founding charity partners, The Lighthouse Childrens’ Home
Prior to starting her organisation, she also founded a nonprofit initiative, The Lost Towel Project that started as a small workshop to help Chin refugees in Malaysia to generate income (in a country where refugees are unable to work legally). This project is ongoing and empowers the Chin refugees from Myanmar to live in dignity.
Suzanne remains active with the day to day operations of her organisation that she does remotely from her home base in London and Geneva due to family commitments but she hopes to return to Malaysia as soon as she is able to. When she is not at work, she loves to travel, watch Arsenal matches and finish the book for her book club.
“My conscience is my religion. As humans, we all have different religious and spiritual beliefs, but I hope we are all unified in our belief of humanity. If you treat others the way you would want to be treated, this is a good start in creating a fairer society.”
Message to Young Malaysians
“Most people believe that someone else will bring about change. The idea that YOU can significantly change the world might not sit comfortably, perhaps you are too humble? However societal change by definition needs all of us to take action.
Teachers have the ability to educate hundreds of people in their lifetime. If you decide to become an ‘agent of change’ you too can make a lasting impact. The world is in a fragile state, and many of us need to work together to mitigate damage to the environment and enhance sustainability.
If you are working in an office, perhaps you can help steer your company towards a greener space. Alternatively volunteer at a worthwhile NGO, or even start your own charity or social impact business.
We need a global effort, and young leaders are required for nation building and the future of our planet. My former boss, Rod Liddle at the BBC, had a fantastic mantra that was very inspiring; ‘reach for the stars and you might hit the moon’. So be brave and search for your star.”