By Jo Lynn Chong
Working with the Perak Society for the Promotion of Mental Health, The VJ Food Club has been operating a food stall that employs people with disabilities at Restoran New Hollywood, Canning Garden, Ipoh, since December 2018. It is the third community project by The VJ Food club.
With the theme “Break The Stigma”, this long-term project is aiming to create an employment platform for people with disabilities.
The VJ Food Club is a social enterprise by a catering and bakery business called VJ Cakes & Culinary. Both are founded by an Ipohite, Seevashankar Vickneswaran (fondly known as Seeva) and co-founded by his mother, J. Vasanthi, hence the name VJ. The VJ Food Club was established in 2017 whereas VJ Cakes & Culinary in 2015.
“Right now, we are employing people who are mentally challenged. We also have a staff member who is deaf and mute,” Seeva explained. “We are looking at other areas of disabilities as well.”
“The Perak Society for the Promotion of Mental Health is actually the main centre we work with but we are open to working with other centres and other disability associations,” Seeva elaborated.
“We have also started working with New Hollywood Restaurant themselves to employ other handicapped staff for them,” Seeva enthused.
Selling only dim sum and pau, all from halal-certified suppliers, the food stall offers around 25 to 30 different varieties of dim sum, of which new varieties are always added. About 10 varieties of pau are offered. Dim sum is sold at RM6 to RM9 per dish; pau is sold at RM3 for one and RM5 for two. (Topseller is the Salted Egg Pau.)
For Seeva, his inspiration for The VJ Food Club came from the time he was studying abroad. “I noticed that most of the businesses there were driven towards creating an impact either socially or environmentally,” Seeva explained.
When asked about the public’s response towards their food stall, Seeva told Ipoh Echo that it has improved a lot. “As time progressed, people started to understand that this particular stall here is employing people with disabilities,” Seeva expressed.
“When we first started in New Hollywood, we were going for Western snack bites,” Seeva elaborated. Some of the delicacies first offered during the early stages of the project were Popcorn Chicken, Popiah Cheese Goreng as well as Grilled and Rainbow Cheese Sandwiches.
“About two or three months in, we realised that this is actually a very famous spot for Chinese halal food, so we did a little bit of research then we decided to source our dim sum and pau from halal suppliers,” Seeva explained.
The VJ Food Club food stall operates daily from 7am to 1pm or till sold out (closed on alternate Mondays). They do have plans to come up with their own halal food and also have a brick-and-mortar place in the future.
For more information, visit their Facebook page at The VJ Food Club and their Instagram page at thevjfoodclub. You can also send them an email at Vjcakes31@gmail.com or call them at 010 931 9423.