Updated: Oct 4, 2022
By: Brayden Yau
While many of us, reading this right now, are experiencing prosperity and fulfilling contentment, most of us tend to forget the one in five people who live below the poverty line, to this very day. The difference in living conditions of adequate homes and cage homes are distinct, and the contrast between the rich and poor is only gradually widening. In Hong Kong, poverty spotlights itself during the most conventional and eye-catching times of the year, for example, during the annual Mid-Autumn Festival, and many of us have even seen it for ourselves. While the public celebrations embrace a full moon and more prosperity to come, one in four children are unable to afford three meals a day, and 9.2 percent of the world’s population is suffering from poverty. Here in Hong Kong, 1.4 million people comprise our poor population out of the 7.5 million people living in Hong Kong, and this poverty rate is still rising. Surprisingly, that means over 10 percent of Hong Kong’s people are poor, or over 1 in 10 people are living in poverty. Furthermore, research done by the Society For Community Organization polled 457 young people, and found that 90% of them lacked food, funds, and proper household facilities.
Annually, over a million mooncakes are wasted within Hong Kong only. Over the past few years, there has been over $2 billion worth of mooncake sales, which have increased local production. The arrival of the Mid Autumn Festival leads to an increase in the supply and demand of mooncakes, thus more food will be wasted. In 2019, 2.9 million mooncakes were wasted in Hong Kong. Despite families purchasing an average of 2-3 boxes of mooncakes, not all of it is consumed. A survey done by Food Grace found that an average of 60% of families received too many mooncakes and couldn’t finish them. On average, 50 glow sticks are thrown away per family. Therefore, as expected, as many as 5 million pieces of disposable cutlery are wasted during the Mid Autumn Festival. The majority of these items are wasted by the wealthy and privileged citizens living above the poverty line, as most people in poverty do not even have the financial resources necessary to purchase these items. If the 2.9 million mooncakes wasted in 2019 were distributed amongst the 40,000 people in Hong Kong who are unable to have three meals a day, each person would get 72.5 mooncakes.
Realistically, in Hong Kong, mooncakes aren’t going to solve the lack of food for those living in poverty, nor will provide enough nutrients for these citizens; but, this should help families in Hong Kong which do have access to large meals and can host large feasts during Mid-Autumn Festival, to reflect on their food waste and their choices on dealing with food waste.
During these times, not only does the environment succumb to the consequences of our enjoyment, but the raised prices of Mid Autumn Festival items make it harder for those in poverty to purchase them.
While celebrating the Mid Autumn Festival, there is one question we can all ask ourselves: How can we help those less privileged than us when we are thriving? There is one simple and clear answer. Compassion. Jacky Chan once said that “Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life. ” This quote summarizes that a simple act of kindness can spark change. For example, a generous restaurant owner named Ming began selling and distributing meals to the poor, mostly free. One year during the Mid-Autumn festival, he gave away over 8,000 mooncakes to the homeless. Additionally, Ming opened 18 food collection points around Hong Kong where people can donate leftovers that can later be redistributed to homeless people. Ming’s actions have sparked similar movements all around Hong Kong. His simple act of kindness tells us how easy it is for one action to spark change.
Additionally, the government turns a blind eye to this issue (to the homeless people) as long as these street sleepers aren’t disturbing the citizens and affecting the city. This can create a huge mental toll on street sleepers as they are being treated as failures in society. Although policies state that they will “preserve the city's image” by helping the homeless, this isn’t reality. This false sense of care only makes it worse for homeless people. Only acts of kindness will help the homeless people in Hong Kong realize and feel that they also belong in this community, other than the feeling of abandonment. As a result, there are several organizations that help round up homeless people and give them free meals, free showers, and free sleeping spaces. If we all took one simple act of kindness, for example, donating mooncakes or providing free meals, step by step, Hong Kong will see change, and a time of prosperity can truly influence those in poverty.