A unique concept of developing a more targeted approach to providing free food in for those in need was recently carried out by a recently opened community store in Mountbatten in Singapore. The shop carries only donated products on its shelves and provides free groceries and food rations for the needy. Beneficiaries can go in and select items they want and need, giving way to a more efficient and specific food donation system.
A store in Mountbatten provides free groceries to the needy. Photo: foodfromtheHeart charity
Free food in Singapore: Food from the Heart, charity
The store is an initiative by charity ‘Food from the Heart’ and is located at Block 13 Old Airport Road.
Manned by volunteers, it opened earlier in February and serves beneficiaries from nearly 500 needy households from the Mountbatten and MacPherson neighbourhoods.
The beneficiaries were previously presented with pre-packed hampers of donated food from various social service centres and did not have a choice in the products they received.
However, in this first-of-its-kind store in Singapore, beneficiaries have the option of choosing up to 12 products monthly. They then “purchase” the items by scanning their beneficiary cards at the counter of the store, imitating an ordinary shopping experience.
The charity will also use the data collected through this system to analyse dietary preferences and restrictions. This is reportedly part of a year-long study to enable a more targeted food donation system specific to the needs of its beneficiaries.
It is also open to receiving donations from members of the public and maintains a list of food items needed on a sign outside the store. The system is geared towards developing a more targeted and efficient method of donation. Donated items can be dropped off in a food drop box at the store, as well as the charity’s warehouse.
The charity previously presented non-customised food hampers to the needy. Photo: foodfromtheHeart, charity
Giving beneficiaries a choice
MP for Mountbatten Lim Biow Chuan, who was present at the store’s opening ceremony, commented on the benefits of this system.
“The community shop resolves some of these problems (as) beneficiaries can collect what they need when they need them,” he said.
He further added that since it is not possible to send out customised food packs, the new system takes care of the problem of beneficiaries sometimes receiving items they cannot consume.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who was also present at the event elaborated on the dignity having a choice gave to the needy.
“Being able to select what they want is an intangible and valuable gift. Beyond the food item, you give residents a choice. I think that’s very powerful,” he said.
Patrons happy with having a choice: free food in Singapore
The store was also well-received by the many beneficiaries visiting it.
Beneficiaries happy at having a choice and being able to select goods specific to their needs and wants. Photo: foodfromtheHeart, charity
One retiree commented that in the past, she had received items in her beneficiary pack that was not to her liking, including some items that were “not very nice to eat” and was happy that she could choose her items more specifically now.
Another one of the store’s patrons, a father of three children and a cleaner who made approximately S$720 a month, also commented on the initiative’s efficiency. He claimed to have previously returned certain donated food items received from hampers such as instant noodles, as he felt they were unhealthy for his children.