Fill Me In
Under a new community initiative, up to 45,000 people from low-income families can soon redeem a free hot meal at any time, from a vending machine at a void deck in their neighbourhood.
These vending machines are under an educational initiative led by Philips and the Food Bank called “Powering better living through access to nutrition”, with the goal of bringing nutritious meals and increased outreach on nutritional eating.
Educating the needy on healthier food options
A Food Bank show kitchen is also in the works, using Philips appliances to showcase how beneficiaries from low-income families can create simple and nutritious meals at home. The organisation also intends to hold workshops on healthy food preparation, in conjunction with the Singapore Heart Foundation.
This new charitable initiative, which is partnered with the Philips Foundation, will distribute 45,000 “bank cards” that can be used to redeem hot meals. These cards are distributed to individuals islandwide and can be used at the machines. Philips Foundation is the charitable arm of the multinational tech conglomerate. The Food Bank Singapore has plans to expand their reach islandwide in the next three months by getting other sponsorships from organisations.
Doing good amidst adversity
Nichol and Nicholas Ng are the co-founders of the organisation, The Food Bank Singapore. The sibling duo has been feeding underprivileged families and the vulnerable elderly since 2012, a good eight years ago. The effects of the pandemic have disrupted their goodwill, but it did not stop them from doing more.
The charity has been leaving their door open for anyone in need of a meal, regardless of citizenship. The Food Bank typically works with a network of 360 charities to collect and distribute produce and pantry items to the machines, where beneficiaries can collect them. When the circuit breaker and all its rules were implemented islandwide, the Food Bank resorted to delivering cooked meals instead.
“We were one of the few charities that still had the licence to go door-to-door, and we took it upon our small team of seven to fulfil our charity partners’ roles. We were essentially a small-scale Foodpanda that had to match meals to addresses while handling dietary requests,” Nichol, 42, told the Peak Magazine in reference to Feed The City – Take-away Edition, a Food Bank initiative that sought to deliver 50,000 meals to needy families while supporting struggling restaurants.
Food partners such as caterer Grain and three-Michelin-star French restaurant Odette provide the cooked meals which donors have paid for. At its peak, the Food Bank saw over 13,000 meals delivered per day, thanks to the help from corporations. “We had a team of SIA pilots who volunteered to deliver food to the east. And DBS Bank activated drivers from its limousine service to help,” shares Nichol. As of July 10, 700,000 daily meals have been delivered to over 15,000 beneficiaries in 1,307 locations.
What about the card?
Each card comes with 50 monthly credits; the currency used to claim the meals in the vending machines. However, any unused credit will not be rolled over into the next month, so it is safe to say that the credits expire within the month. Each meal costs three credits, and each dry food item costs two credits.
Food and dry food dispensing machines
Philips Foundation has also sponsored the installation of two dry food dispensers, and one hot bento meal dispenser machine, both of which are available at Block 131 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh. The machines there have been in use since October 27.
The dry food machine dispenses donated food obtained from suppliers and individuals. They include items that might otherwise have gone to waste, such as vermicelli, canned vegetables and meat, and powdered beverage formulas, among others.
Alongside the dry food, the hot food machine dispenses nutritious meals. The hot meals available are endorsed by the Singapore Heart Foundation, with options such as red rice vermicelli with kung pao chicken and long beans, ginger fish with brown and white rice, and curry chicken with brown and white rice. The meals provided have been assessed by a certified nutritionist and contain less than 500 calories each.
Find out more
If you’re keen to donate or help out and contribute to the Food Bank’s cause, you may find out more at their website here.