There are no beggars lining the streets or homeless folks sleeping on park benches, but there is still a certain degree of poverty in Singapore that is cause for concern. In December 2015, the government released, for the first time, data on citizens receiving financial aid from the state. Almost a quarter of those receiving short- to medium-term assistance from the Community Care Endowment Fund are working — but not making enough to get by. To qualify, their per capita income must be under $650.
To make sense of this, consider that the average four-person household in Singapore needs $1,250 a month for essentials like food, clothing and shelter. This is according to the latest five-yearly Household Expenditure Survey conducted by the Department of Statistics in 2012/2013.
At the time, Singapore was the sixth most expensive country in the world. Since then, it has risen to top spot. Part of the reason why the Economist Intelligence Unit named Singapore the most expensive country in the world in 2014 and 2015 is because basic groceries here are 11% more expensive than in New York, which is used as the base city for comparison.
While the Singapore government has rejected the idea of an official poverty line, some estimates suggest that at least 110,000 households are unable to meet basic needs. For those who struggle to put food on the table, initiatives like Food from the Heart and The Food Bank Singapore are here to help.
Saving bread from being binned
In November 2002, The Sunday Times carried a short but impactful article suggesting that bakeries were dumping large quantities of unsold bread every day. This inspired Mrs Christine Laimer and her husband Henry to set up Food from the Heart in 2003. With the help of 120 volunteers and the support of 37 bakeries, the non-profit organisation began collecting and distributing unsold bread to the needy.
Today, its daily bread distribution programme involves 1,700 active volunteers and 109 bakeries and hotels. According to figures from its 2014 annual report, on average, Food from the Heart enables 28,000kg of bread to reach 158 welfare homes and needy families and individuals each month, effectively touching the lives of about 15,000 beneficiaries.
Home-grown bakery chain Four Leaves has been an ardent supporter of Food from the Heart’s bread distribution programme for over a decade.
“There are days when we have unsold bread and we find it a waste to throw them away. By donating our bread to Food from the Heart, we are delighted to help the less fortunate in our community,” said a Four Leaves spokesperson.
Four Leaves currently has 28 retail outlets in Singapore, many of which are involved in the Bread Programme. Its team prepares the unsold bread for Food from the Heart’s volunteers to collect after operation hours.
You can help too!
Food from the Heart welcomes volunteers on both a regular and ad-hoc basis. You can join the fight against hunger and waste by helping to collect and deliver bread if you own a vehicle, or by contributing your time and energy to packing and distributing bread rations at Food from the Heart’s self-collection centre. Learn more about volunteering opportunities at www.foodheart.org .
Banking on donations
The concept of a food bank may not be immediately familiar. It operates like a food warehouse and distributor, serving community agencies that, in turn, help feed needy individuals. Food banking first began in the US in 1967 but only took off globally in the 1980s. The Global Foodbanking Network, which has member food banks from over 20 countries, believes that there is enough food to feed the world — but more than a third of food produced is wasted.
In 2012, The Food Bank Singapore brought this movement to local shores. The registered charity collects surplus food from manufacturers, farms and fisheries, distributors, retail outlets and consumers. It then works with a network of about 130 charities and volunteer welfare organisations to redistribute the food. It estimates, through interviews with its member beneficiaries, that 70,000 food rations and 800,000 meals are required monthly.
Food retailers like NeNe Chicken, the Korean fried chicken chain, have been quietly supporting the cause. Being in the food and beverage industry, NeNe Chicken sees first-hand how food waste is becoming an increasingly serious and prevalent problem.
To deliver on its own brand promise of “crispy chicken, juicy meat”, NeNe Chicken uses fresh chicken, which has a more limited shelf life than frozen meat. It chooses to donate, rather than waste, any excess chicken that is still in good condition.
Speaking to Inside , a NeNe Chicken spokesperson said: “We chose to support The Food Bank Singapore as it is championing a cause that we feel strongly about. The organisation alleviates the issue of food waste by redirecting the food resources that are still in good, edible condition to their beneficiaries. This spreads NeNe Chicken’s ethos of supporting a happy and positive lifestyle not only for our customers but the community in general.”
You can help too!
The Food Bank Singapore accepts surplus inventory and safe-to-eat food donations, including items with an approaching sell-by date, labelling errors, packaging damages. They also need all the help they can get to sort, manage, deliver and store food. You can contribute as an individual volunteer, whether in operations (collecting, packing, cleaning, storing and distributing food), advocacy (as a brand ambassador or event planner), marketing (in photography, visual design, social media marketing) or R&D; (as a researcher, food nutrition educator or chef). Details are available at www.foodbank.sg .
Dine with us and support our socially-conscious retail tenants:NeNe Chicken