TAKING HEART

OCBC, Food from the Heart open new community shop in Boon Lay

This is the second 'shop-for-free' community shop, set up to serve needy households following the success of the first shop in Mountbatten

Singapore

LOCAL charity Food from the Heart (FFTH) and OCBC Bank have opened a second "shop-for-free" community shop in Singapore - this time, in Boon Lay - to serve needy households.

This follows the success of the first such shop at Mountbatten, which has already seen nearly 500 families collect S$60,000 worth of food items since February last year.

OCBC has donated a sum of S$200,000 for the Boon Lay shop, which takes the bank's support for the Community Shop programme to S$500,000.

The community shop at Mountbatten has proven to be popular among needy families. A dipstick survey conducted by FFTH found that almost all - or 98 per cent - respondents preferred the shop-for-free concept over food packs or meal coupons. Each month, beneficiaries can visit the shop multiple times and collect a total of 12 food items, such as canned food, bread spreads, biscuits, oil and condiments.

The community shop in Boon Lay, which was opened by National Development Minister and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee on March 24, is already serving 350 households and is expected to serve a thousand needy families by the end of the year.

The beneficiaries include needy families served by both Boon Lay Citizens' Consultative Committee and NTUC Health.

FFTH chief executive officer Sim Bee Hia noted that the profile of beneficiaries receiving food support has changed over the years. "We want to uplift our beneficiaries' lives by leading change in the way the needy receives their food support," she said. "The success of our first community shop shows that we are moving in the right direction, being beneficiary-centric while leveraging on technology to gather data that will help us to understand and meet their needs better."

FFTH intends to share the data captured from the shop's electronic point-of-sale system with OCBC's data analytics volunteer team to understand the beneficiaries' consumption habits further.

OCBC's head of group brand and communications, Koh Ching Ching, said the bank's employees have volunteered with FFTH over the past six years, and they have realised there is no cookie-cutter solution when it comes to feeding the needy.

Choice of preferred items

"For instance, those living alone may not be motivated to cook, whereas those with health conditions like diabetes should avoid consuming too many carbohydrates. This prompted us to explore and support different approaches," she said.

Letting people choose their preferred items at the community shop also reduces the chance of them receiving food types that they do not need, or having too much of the same type of food. It also allows those with health issues to pick options that are suitable for their condition, she added.

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