SINGAPORE – Lower-income families are now able to get more fresh produce for free at community minimarts by Food from the Heart, under a new initiative by Resorts World Sentosa (RWS).
The integrated resort contributed $300,000 to fund supplies of fresh vegetables and eggs to Food from the Heart’s four shop-for-free community minimarts over three years.
Aimed to improve access to nutritious food for lower-income families, the RWS Eat Well @ Community Shop initiative comes after a survey by the charity showed that more families are opting for food with a longer shelf life, amid rising prices of groceries.
This can come at the expense of balanced nutrition, with the food charity witnessing only a 5 per cent redemption of fresh food across its four community shops in early 2022.
To address these challenges, the initiative will supply the community shops with fresh produce from farms in Singapore. They include Chinese cabbage (xiao bai cai), spinach, Chinese broccoli (kai lan) and endives, as well as eggs.
Each household served by the community shops can now select two additional items from the fresh food category every month for free, on top of the 12 essential non-perishable food items that each household is entitled to.
The four minimarts, situated in Boon Lay, Lengkok Bahru, Mountbatten and Punggol, cater to 2,400 lower-income families islandwide.
The initiative under RWS Cares, the community development arm of RWS, is part of the resort’s efforts to give back to the community. Ms Loh Su Kim, senior vice-president of attractions and sustainability at RWS, said: “First, we hope to foster healthier eating habits among vulnerable groups by helping them to get better access to fresh and nutritious food.
“Second, we endeavour to support our local farming community by purchasing supplies from them to help forge a more resilient and sustainable future for all, especially for Singapore’s food landscape.”
Since the initiative was rolled out in March, the community shops have seen a fourfold surge in the redemption of fresh produce – amounting to nearly 9,000 redemptions – compared with the first half of 2022.
The top favourite fresh food items among families are Chinese cabbage, chye sim and eggs. Eggs made up almost half of all redeemed local fresh produce items.
Food from the Heart chief executive Robin C. Lee said: “The way we help communities in need has evolved over the years. Early last year, we noticed that more families were turning to non-perishables to cope with higher living costs… We have noticed that our beneficiaries are now looking forward to the arrival of fresh produce.”
For housewife Siti Rosninah, preparing a balanced diet for her family of seven is crucial – especially for her children who are all under the age of 15. Yet, Madam Rosninah usually chooses non-perishables such as cooking oil and canned food at the Community Shop @ Boon Lay.
She said: “If I choose to get spinach, that can last my big family for only one meal. But if I choose biscuits and bread spreads, my children can have them over many meals. The savings on food can instead go into paying for other bills, like electricity and my children’s stationery.”
Since the initiative started, she has begun picking up more vegetables. “With the extra credits, I can make nutritious spinach soup for my five children more often.”
For retired hawker Koh Choon Hui, 85, a typical meal comprises a one-pot meal. Since having better access to fresh produce under the new initiative at Community Shop @ Boon Lay, Madam Koh, who lives alone, has added a variety of dark green leafy vegetables and eggs to her meals.
“Although I cook daily, I tend to eat simply. Ever since I’ve had extra credits to choose fresh food, I cook them more now. I can add fresh vegetables and eggs to my vermicelli soup and porridge.”
Freelance project coordinator Subash Saminathan, 49, said: “With this new initiative, my family and I are now able to prepare meals using fresh ingredients, especially for my son. It’s important because we have our meals at home daily.”
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