Indulge in gourmet and help feed a child, charity says

Tue Jun 2, 2009 4:10am EDT
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By Eveline Danubrata

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Dining at top-notch restaurants just got more meaningful with a charity drive that hopes to turn gourmet meals across Asia into food for children in one of the world's poorest nations, East Timor.

More than 50 restaurants across Asia will donate 15 percent of their proceeds from special menus or promotions during August to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in East Timor as part of an initiative with regional food guide, the Miele Guide.

"I feel that in Asia, it's very easy to forget the fact that there are about 600 million people going to bed hungry each night," the WFP's Cynthia Jones said.

East Timor, which was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, has suffered from widespread food shortages and civil unrest since gaining full independence in 2002. According to U.N. figures, it faces one of the highest malnutrition and mortality rates among children aged below 5 years in Asia.

Participating restaurants include Iggy's in Singapore, ranked one of the world's top 50 restaurants, Japan's Hanasanshou and Hong Kong's Nobu. Jones said the WFP aimed to raise $200,000 during the month, which could feed around 11,000 children in East Timor for three months.

"This program will hopefully work well because it gives people the excuse to go back to great restaurants, to feel less guilty about spending freely and eating well," said Aun Koh, director of Ate Media, the Singapore-based firm which publishes the Miele Guide.

Koh said August is usually a difficult month for restaurants across Asia because holidays and festivals mean people do not eat out as often, so the initiative also aims to revive business, especially during these tough economic times.

Koh, who was once a journalist trailing East Timor's first president Xanana Gusmao, hopes to turn the initiative into an annual event. The WFP hopes it won't be needed for ever.

"We are filling a gap in government capacity at this stage of the game. Our intent is to build the government capacity so we can then phase out and governments can take over," Jones said.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)