An exploration of the right to food in practice
By Katie Badger and Olivia Jeffree
This tour explores the work of charitable organisations that seek to address the issue of food insecurity of some of Hong Kong’s most vulnerable people through volunteering. The walk covers around 3 miles in total, and should take between 1.5 and 3 hours to complete. The first part of the tour takes place in Sham Shui Po, and the second part is in Yau Ma Tei.
Sham Shui Po
Map 1: Sham Shui Po
Sham Shui Po is a working class area of Hong Kong, located in the northwest of the Kowloon Peninsula. As with the majority of places in Hong Kong, the area is easily accessible by public transportation. Famous for both its fashion and electronics markets, Sham Shui Po is a vibrant and exciting neighbourhood, that is host to a multitude of interesting sites where helping the city’s homeless and low income takes place through the provisioning of food.
1. Sham Shui Po MTR, exit A2
The tour starts here. From the exit, head down Pei Ho Street, a lively, bustling market selling clothes, accessories and household goods.
2. Pei Ho Road Tea House
Carry on to number 54, where Pei Ho Tea House, sometimes known as Pei Ho BBQ restaurant, is situated. The tea house is famous for providing a large, balanced meal for just HK$22, which is around £2; it is ran by volunteers, and aims to provide food for low income and homeless residents of Hong Kong through its exceptional prices and large quantities. For $22, you will receive a decent portion of meat, vegetables and rice. Mr Ming-Gor, the owner of the restaurant, is famed locally for his community spirit and generosity; he has also featured in TV documentary series focussing on inequality in Hong Kong, which can be found here. In addition to providing food for Hong Kong’s low income and homeless, he is also passionate about occupying the time of disadvantaged young people. He believes this strategy will prevent young people from seeing how unfair life in Hong Kong is, and they won’t turn to crime, as their time is occupied by helping people and doing good. The restaurant also regularly runs ‘love drives’, which is a volunteering event that distributes a hot meal, fruit and a carton of juice to each person in need, across numerous locations in Hong Kong (up to 100 different sites across the day). Well organised, heart-warming and full of community spirit, these events are well worth attending if you want to see the hidden side of Hong Kong – just pop in and ask about upcoming events.
3. Jade Market Informal Housing Settlement
Continue walking until the end of Pei Ho Street and you will come to Jade Market, where an informal housing settlement is situated. More visible at night, this is one of the locations visited by Mr Ming-Gor’s ‘love drives’, as numerous homeless Hong Kong residents live here in informal housing. Many of the people that live here are recovering drug addicts or Vietnamese refugees. There are current fears that the market may be demolished, as business there has become slow in recent years, due to stricter regulation of the market stalls and competing markets.
4. Food Angel
After visiting Jade Market, head back one block and turn left onto Hai Tan Street, and continue north until you reach food angel, a centre where surplus food is reclaimed and redistributed (3/F, Fung Sing Building, 235 Hai Tan Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon). Food Angel mainly supports the deprived elderly population in Hong Kong, due to poor welfare provisions and pension systems; 1 in 3 elderly people in Hong Kong are malnourished. 71% of the food they redistribute feeds the elderly. Children from low income families, the disabled and unemployed are the other key beneficiaries from the centre. Tackling the problems of food waste and hunger, the centre has reclaimed 1,753,295kg of surplus food, and provided 2,313,935 meals since its opening in 2011. They also run several other programmes, such as the school based education programme, aimed at teaching children about the value of food and the environment. If you are doing this tour during the day, you will notice the trucks in the area delivering food to the centres kitchen to be prepared.
You have now completed the Sham Shui Po section of the tour. Located on the corner of Hai Tan Street and Yen Chow Street is a small tea house called ‘Complete Happiness’ in English. Here they serve traditional pastries and tea for reasonable prices, if you are in need of refreshment after completing the first section.
6. Sham Shui Po MTR, exit C2
Continue back down Hai Tan street for one more block and then turn left onto Kweilin Street. Stay on Kweilin Street until you reach the MTR station.
Yau Ma Tei
Yau Ma Tei is famed for its extensive markets that are abundant through the neighbourhood, selling everything from kitchen utensils to stones with healing qualities. This tour will explore some of these markets, including those selling fruit. You will also see various different cultural sites, such as Yau Ma Tei theatre, and you will have a chance to purchase souvenirs at the famous Jade Market.
Map 2: Yau Ma Tei
1. MTR: Yau Ma Tei
Take the Red line southwards for three stops, and get off at Yau Ma Tei exit D. Cross the road on Nathan Street to your right, and then head eastwards down Waterloo Road. Walk past two blocks until you reach the Shanghai Street Intersection, you should then be able to see the Street Sleepers Association.
2. Street Sleepers Association
The Street Sleepers Association is situated next to a recycling centre, where some of the people who stay at the shelter work. The association also provides temporary employment opportunities for individuals who stay there, by running working parties that go and clean the streets and do other manual work. There are an estimated 1400 homeless people in Hong Kong; this number is very likely an underestimation, due to the nature of the surveys undertaken. Charities and non-governmental bodies have attributed blame for these numbers to the government, as very little support for street sleepers, and arguably anyone on a low income in Hong Kong. They argue that this is a particularly prominent problem for mentally ill street sleepers and those with drug addictions.
3. Yau Ma Tei Theatre
Continue along Waterloo Road. The next building adjacent to the Street Sleepers Association is the Yau Ma Tei Theatre. This Grade 2 listed building is the only remaining theatre in Kowloon District to have survived World War 2. Today the venue is dedicated to Canotonese Opera, with many shows free or with very low priced tickets. This celebration of traditional entertainment is popular with local residents and tourists alike. Check out the performance timetable here: http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/en/ymtt/index.html
4. Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market
Continue along Waterloo Road past the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market on your left. Enter the market and head left (back towards the east). This Grade 3 listed buildings of this complex were originally built for, owned and lived in by the market traders themselves. Have a look up to the gables of the houses and you can see the original owners names inscribed there. . There has been a thriving market community here since it was founded in 1913. There used to be vegetables and fish sold here as well, but since the opening of several competing markets nearby, it now concentrates solely on wholesale fruit. Have a look at the prices and the quality here: most of the fruit here is considered luxury, and much of it is imported from Japan and carries a high price tag. This market was once notorious for gangs and drugs trade, and as such has been used as a shooting location for many films, such as Andy Lau’s As the Tears Go By. The market will probably seem fairly quiet: most of the trading here takes place in the small hours of the morning. As a result there are some conflicts with the neighbouring residents, due the noisiness late at night and the coming and going of delivery trucks, as well as the issue of fruit waste which is often left to rot on the ground.
5. Salvation Army
From the market, head back towards the Street Sleepers Association, and turn right down Shanghai Road. Head south for three blocks, then turn left onto Wing Sin Lane. Continue and cross over Nathan Road. Continue forward and you will see the Salvation Army Centre on your left. This is a drop-in providing lodgings and regular meals to people in need from around the local area. In front of you is the Caritas Shelter, a similar organisation. Much of the charitable provisioning in this area is organised by faith groups, with a strong presence from international Christian organisations.
6. Temple and Garden
Follow the road around the block past, and walk down a long flight of concrete stairs, brightly painted with flowers. Cross Nathan Road again, and continue one more block, then turn left to walk through Tien Hau Temple and gardens. This is a popular spot for Yau Ma Tei’s elderly residents to while away the sunny afternoons playing chess and card games. Walk under the underpass and turn right onto Kansu Street, then left onto Reclamation Street.
6.5 (Optional detour) Jade Market
Jade Market itself was established in the 1950’s, by immigrants to Hong Kong from Guangzhou, China selling Jade. As Jade grew in popularity following President Nixon’s visit to Hong Kong and the increased demand for the stone as souvenirs, the market grew rapidly – from ten stalls to over three hundred. Today, a multitude of souvenir’s can be purchased here, from chopsticks to jewellery.
7. Reclamation Street Market
Walk under the underpass and turn right onto Kansu Street, then left onto Reclamation Street. This street is so named because all of the land between this street and the harbour to the west is reclaimed land, built over what was once sea. Reclamation Street is home to Yau Ma Tei’s busiest food market. In contrast to the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market, the food here is much more affordable. Most local residents will do the majority of their food shopping here, and it is a place for bartering and socialising. Many of the vendors take great care in presenting their wares attractively, with fruit artfully arranged in piles. This is in part due to the drive for more hygienic and sanitary market conditions that is happening all over Hong Kong. Many vendors have been affected by the recent dockers strikes in Hong Kong, which have caused delays in deliveries of imported produce. As with many street markets across the city, the traders here are uncertain about their futures, as the government is planning to replace many street market areas with purpose-built indoor markets.
8. Temple Street Market
When you reach Saigon Street, turn left and continue until Temple Street, then turn right. This is a bustling night market where you can buy all kinds of delicious street food and snacks, as well as souvenirs, clothes and trinkets. The Andy Lau film The Prince of Temple Street, 1992, was filmed here. You may also see performers and opera troups busking among the crowds.
8. Jordan Road MTR A entrance
Continue down Temple Street until you reach Jordan Street. Turn left and continue for 3 blocks until you reach the Jordan Road metro station, Exit A. This concludes the walking tour.