September 8, 2020
Words by: Valerie Kor
(Photo Above) The dining area of Straits Clan was cleared to facilitate food packing stations. During the first few days, packing 450 meals took staff up to four hours. But the process was tweaked along the way and packing time was shortened to 2.5 hours in the second week. CAROLINE CHIA
The economy has been ravaged by the ongoing pandemic. Retrenchments are on the rise and those who have lost jobs must now draw down on their savings, or rely on safety nets that come in the form of government payouts. Otherwise, they can fall through the cracks. Some end up homeless, and more go hungry.
Thankfully, some of the Covid-19 regulations have eased up and charities and initiatives in Singapore can resume operations. Here’s how they provide free or affordable meals.
(Above) This kitchen comes alive at 4am when the cooking starts. Willing Hearts provides over 9,000 meals a day now, up from 6,500 before the Circuit Breaker. CAROLINE CHIA
Willing Hearts, a soup-kitchen charity, has seen the number of food packets required increase from 6,500 to more than 9,000 meals a day.
Relying on a crew of 200 volunteers and donations of produce and food, Willing Hearts says that their volunteers now include many who have lost jobs. They work tirelessly from 4am to prepare and pack meals for the day.
During the circuit breaker, for about two to three weeks at the start, the meals had to be managed by only 20 workers. With more volunteers onboard and more who need food, the organisation is thinking of moving into a larger facility to cater to vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals to fit different religious preferences. Willing hearts has implemented FloWave Covid-19 tracing system to help record the movements of its volunteers.
Willing Hearts also has feeding missions in the Philippines. It is also working towards operating a shelter.
(Above) Ruzaini Syazwan, 29, started the Umbrella Initiative, a project that provides meals for the needy and homeless. The full-time nursing student started out delivering the food on his own, but the project has since expanded to a 9-person team. CAROLINE CHIA
Ruzaini Syazwan, 29, is a full-time nursing student. When he isn’t studying, he is delivering food to the needy and homeless under the Umbrella Initiative. On just a motorbike, Syazwan looks out for the homeless in Singapore at empty hawker centres.
He got the idea to do that because mosques were ordered to close due to Covid-19 safe distancing measures. This means that the needy had one less place to go for meals. During Ramadan, he often broke fast on the go on his way to deliver food.
He gets his meals with donations from the community, and delivers packet food to the needy and homeless. Syazwan says that some of the people he helps do not have access to TV, smartphones, or radio. They don’t know that there are schemes available to them.
His team has now grown to 9 people and the group distributed close to 300 meals a day at its peak. After Ramadan, Umbrella Initiative SG distributed raya cookies and dishes to the less fortunate ones.
He is in discussion with TOUCH Community Services, a non-profit organisation, on a project involving him and his team in providing meals for more than 400 beneficiaries for two months.
(Above) Neighbour of Raydy, Ben frying up beehoon at Raydy’s Beehoon. Ben’s years of kitchen experience have been a boon to Raydy Gives, managing the day’s output with clockwork precision. BRYAN VAN DER BEEK
Student entrepreneur Lee Ray Sheng at NTU operates a stall in a canteen in the school. When the schools were sent home, he knew that his business would suffer. At the same time, he thought of the people around him that would lose their jobs and go hungry.
He says, “It’s not so bad for me because I’m a student. I’m not even expected to make money. But I saw the people around me experiencing this and that’s when it dawned. So we decided to take our business to the industrial kitchens, and cook up cheap meals that are affordable for the needy.”
His partner kitchens produce 2,000 meals a day at four locations, offering $2.50 bee hoon breakfast set meals for the needy during COVID-19. With its network of kitchens, it produced 2,000 meals a day, at total four locations. In June, Raydy Beehoon reopened for business. The stall has launched Phase 3 of Raydy Gives: Project #365, which aims to provide 100 meals daily to those in need for 365 days.
How you can help: Follow Raydy’s Facebook page to keep up with what he needs to keep Project365 going.
With the government providing help in the form of relief payouts and deferred loan payments, the situation seemed to have stabilised with community cases going down. However, the economy will need time to recover as Covid-19 restrictions still remain.
If you’re not worrying about your next meal, consider yourself fortunate. Volunteer for the above organisations and initiatives or donate if you have the means.