Healthy diet made simple: Food Bank SG launches new cooking classes for the needy

Beneficiaries watch a cooking demonstration by chef Victor Loy at the launch of the Masak Masak initiative on Oct 1, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Madam Goh Gek Khin, 68, is always on the hunt for new recipes, as long as they are healthy.

The former teacher wants to keep meals interesting for her daughter, Ms Gladys Goh, 35, who has Down syndrome and a heart defect that causes fatigue and shortness of breath. A clean diet is essential for her.

But it can be tricky, as Madam Goh's daughter is not a fan of vegetables and cannot consume too much salt, oil and fat, which could help make a meal tastier.

On Friday (Oct 1), the pair were invited to a new cooking class series with a focus on preparing healthy meals with everyday ingredients, organised by Food Bank Singapore (FBSG), a charity that organises food donations for the needy.

Called the Masak Masak initiative - which means "cooking" in Malay - the monthly programme aims to educate the underprivileged on eating healthy and how to cook such meals.

The first class, held at the newly launched culinary hub Xpace in Pandan Loop, West Coast, was led by chef Victor Loy, who taught a group of 10 beneficiaries from the North West Community Development Council and some 20 others who joined via the online stream.

FBSG co-founder Nichol Ng said roughly a quarter of the beneficiaries she visited wasted donated ingredients as they were untrained in cooking.

The team had planned to publish a recipe book but opted for live-streamed cooking classes as they are easier to understand, said Ms Ng, who is also the chief executive of food distributing company X-Inc.

"A lot of people don't know what to do with the food or they are not creative enough to use ingredients with other dishes," she said. "These classes can teach them how to be creative about their food but also simplifying it."

A volunteer chef will teach beneficiaries during each session to prepare meals using ingredients commonly donated by charities.

Mr Loy used canned tuna, bai cai, chilled rice and wild snapper, which can be swopped with any kind of protein, he told the participants. Those at the culinary hub were served a portion of the food after the lesson.

To make the vegetable-based "Green Goddess" sauce that complemented the fish, he blended herbs and other greens together, noting that even the roots of the vegetables should be used as they are fragrant when ripe.

Mr Loy, a chef at Fat Belly Social Steakhouse, told The Straits Times: "I wanted to show them how to maximise the food they have and not waste any of it. So we used the whole vegetable, and even the trimmings from the roots for the sauce."

Chef Loy wanted to show participants how to maximise the food they have and not waste any of it. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Madam Goh said she was surprised that her daughter enjoyed the sauce, even though it was vegetable-based and prepared without salt. She even gave her mother a thumbs up.

"(The chef) prepared a few types of vegetables with little to no salt, but they were still tasty," said Madam Goh. "It really moved me and I want to try new ways to cook healthier food for her."

The Masak Masak initiative is the latest project in FBSG's goal to eradicate food insecurity in Singapore by 2025. The charity has a network of some 370 organisations to bring food to more than 100,000 families.

FBSG is calling out to chefs willing to volunteer to teach beneficiaries to cook. Those interested can send an e-mail to inquiries@foodbank.sg

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