Food From the Heart helps keep good food from going to waste - Peace Boat visits Singapore (2018)
Singapore is the third-richest country in the world, yet this prosperity is not equitably reflected in its standard of living. Of the island nation's 5.61 million people, approximately 420,000 (13%) live in poverty and 1 in 10 go to bed hungry. This alarming statistic is caused not by food shortage, but rather a failure to deliver subsistence to those who need it: according to Singapore's The Strait Times, only 14% of the country's unsold food was redistributed in 2016. Food From The Heart (FFTH) is working to combat this issue, and Peace Boat participants had the opportunity to witness and support the food bank's work during the 97th Asian Voyage's visit to Singapore.
Participants were welcomed to FFTH's 5000-ft2 warehouse by Jeneve Loh, the organization's Senior Manager of Corporate Outreach. In her presentation, Ms Loh explained that FFTH was founded in 2003 by Singapore-based Austrian couple Henry and Christine Laimer, with an initial goal of reducing bread wastage. Together with 120 pioneer volunteers, they signed agreements with three major Singaporean bakeries to collect and redistribute excess food items. Almost fifteen years later, this programme has grown to include the collection of approximately S$3.87 million worth of unsold bread each year, contributing to a total of S$5.4 million worth of food redistributed in 2016.
Ms Loh says FFTH relies not only on donations of food but also of time: their operation is supported by an annual team of over 8000 volunteers. Thanks to their generosity, FFTH has been able to expand their programming to six key services: the monthly redistribution of 28,000kg of bread; food package delivery for families and individuals; a student food programme designed to incentivize attendance and academic performance; a toy programme providing goods to more than 8000 beneficiaries each year and with an annual event serving 4000; a monthly birthday programme organizing catered celebrations for over 1000 children and elderly; and FFTH's newest programme, which delivers food products and living necessities to 41 charities and nearly 8000 beneficiaries. Combined, FFTH provides subsistence support to approximately 35,000 Singaporeans each year.
Peace Boat participants were eager to lend their support during their visit to Singapore. Alongside regular volunteers, they assembled food packages containing kitchen staples like rice, oil, and milk, alongside specialty items like Japanese tea, tinned fish, and desserts. Participants then traveled to a nearby apartment complex to meet the Chairman of the Citizen's Consultative Committee Eric Wong, who facilitated the delivery of these goods to those in need. Mr Wong expressed his gratitude to FFTH-and Peace Boat's participants-for their important work."Because Singapore is small," said Mr Wong, "it might seem easier to identify and solve problems than in countries like Japan. Nevertheless, we can't do it without help." Peace Boat participant Miyajiwa Reiko said these national differences were one of the reasons she'd chosen to spend her day in Singapore learning about FFTH and lending her support in whatever way she could. "I volunteer at food banks in Japan, but I wanted to see what different strategies were being used in Singapore," said Ms Miyajiwa. "Maybe I can learn something that will be useful back home."
Upon receiving their donations, residents invited tour participants into their homes. One recipient, who requested that she be called Auntie, lives in a compact government-subsidized flat with her husband and daughter. Auntie emigrated from Indonesia 20 years ago, and relies on occasional donations from FFTH to help her feed her family. "If I don't need everything that I'm given," Auntie said, "I share it with my neighbours." Tour participant Iizumi Ryo felt privileged to have met FFTH recipients like Auntie, who not only benefit from support but in turn help those around them. "I know that life in poverty must be difficult, but I saw so much positivity," he said. Hopefully, they will carry this impression with them long after they complete their voyage throughout the Asiatic region. Programme participants returned to Peace Boat as witnesses of the exponential benefits that result from hard work, advocacy, and the active fostering of communal equity.