SINGAPORE - With five children in her care, single mother Siti Aidah Abdullah usually does not have much say in what food she and her children eat.
The 48-year-old, who suffers from stage four leukaemia, is on government assistance and relies on food donations, which typically comprise dry foods such as canned food and noodles.
"My children eat whatever food donations that are given like biscuits and Maggi," she said. "Sometimes when my son has no food to eat, he eats his fingernails; I am very sad."
On Wednesday (March 20), Madam Siti was one of 500 beneficiaries who were given the chance to choose their own fresh produce to take home.
Food from the Heart, a charity that feeds the needy in Singapore, held its first Pop-Up Fresh Produce Market, which allowed beneficiaries to shop for $50 worth of fresh seafood, poultry, fruit and vegetables outside Teck Ghee Community Club.
The charity's chief executive Sim Bee Hia said: "The Pop-Up Fresh Produce Market is a new initiative, as we focus on changing perceptions around the food programmes for the needy, and better empower our beneficiaries with choices when receiving food aid.
"We hope to change the way Singapore looks at serving and giving to the community. In addition, this market also allows our beneficiaries to select the items that are truly relevant to their needs, while adding fresh produce and nutrition into the mix of food items that they use to prepare their meals."
Ernie Lydia Binte Abu Yamin, a social work assistant at Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre, added: "Fresh seafood and poultry are the pricier grocery items that our beneficiaries don't often buy for themselves. So when they learned that they will be able to select and bring home fresh ingredients that include meat items, they were really happy to be part of it."
Last week, the Health Promotion Board launched a pilot scheme aimed at helping lower-income groups eat healthier. It includes new guidelines for donors on picking healthier food products for beneficiaries.
The fresh produce received by beneficiaries on Wednesday - which included sweet potatoes, sea bass and prawns - was in addition to the weekly food assistance they get from the charity.
About 1,500 people are expected to benefit from Wednesday's pop-up market.
The charity plans to hold its next pop-up market in May before reviewing its sustainability.
For Madam Siti, being able to choose which fresh food to bring home is a rare opportunity. She brought home vegetables, chicken, fish, prawns and noodles. "I do not have the money to go to the supermarket so this is a rare chance for me to choose. Usually we just eat what we have. If we do not have something, we just keep quiet," she said. "So I am very happy to have this chance today."