Work group to address wastage of food donations, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Work group to address wastage of food donations

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Work group to address food waste and uneven food distribution efforts

They are trash, but leftovers such as half-eaten sandwiches, mouldy fruits and vegetables, and half-empty drink cans are often found in donation bins for food gifts during the festive season.

For non-profit groups such as The Food Bank Singapore that collect such presents to bring cheer to poor families, such unwanted gifts contaminate other food in the bin.

Volunteers' time is also spent sorting out the good from the bad and the ugly.

Another major festive failing is the distribution of gifts, as vulnerable families are presented with an overabundance of food items such as rice, noodles and snacks. The excess tends to end up in the trash when it is not consumed before the expiry date.

It perhaps underlies the finding that one in five low-income households here faces severe food insecurity, according to a study last year by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation.

This meant that during a 12-month period, a family went hungry at least one meal-time or did not eat for a whole day because they did not have enough money or other resources to get food.

For the first time, steps are being taken at the national level to address these two issues: food waste and the uneven nature of food distribution efforts.

A work group that includes non-profit groups such as The Food Bank Singapore, the Ministry of Social and Family Development and other government agencies has been set up, and its first meeting was held in October.


Details on what initiatives it will roll out are being worked out.

In the meantime, The Food Bank Singapore co-founder Nichol Ng is hoping various volunteer groups leading food distribution efforts islandwide will coordinate their efforts by mapping out who looks after which area, rather than having groups overlap in the same area.

The case of thoughtless giving came into sharp focus and sparked a robust debate in August, when the home of an elderly man, who was suffering from dementia, was found cluttered with hundreds of expired packets of instant noodles and more than 50 bottles of soya sauce from donors.

They had gone to waste as he did not cook.

To prevent such mismatches, The Food Bank Singapore sends an inventory of its food items to partner organisations for them to ask for what they need, said Ms Ng.

It is also planning to set up its own central kitchen next year to serve hot cooked meals prepared with donated ingredients, she said.

Currently, such food dished out by various organisations is often served cold, and some wastage is inevitable as some people prefer hot food.