With the opening of the Community Shop @ Boon Lay yesterday, needy families in the area now have the chance to shop for food items for free.
The small minimart at Block 176 Boon Lay Drive is operated by charity organisation Food from the Heart (FFTH) and supported by OCBC Bank.
With its shop-for-free concept, beneficiaries can select what they need, instead of receiving standard food packages.
Their beneficiary card allows them to redeem up to 12 items a month from a range of food staples, including canned food, bread spreads, biscuits, oil and condiments.
The store now serves 350 needy households and is projected to reach 1,000 by the year end.
It is the second of its kind, with the first outlet in Mountbatten opening in February last year.
The Boon Lay store was officially opened yesterday by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration, and Mr Eric Chua, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth, and Social and Family Development.
Mr Lee said that it "improves food matching, better meets residents' needs, and also helps coordinate charity food distribution better and reduces food wastage".
The store's concept also empowers families to choose the items they prefer at the time they need them, he added.
FFTH chief executive Sim Bee Hia said giving beneficiaries the ability to choose "changes the equilibrium of giving and receiving - there is no 'hand-me-down feeling' usually associated with beneficiaries".
Ms Koh Ching Ching, OCBC's head of group brand and communications, noted that there is no cookie-cutter solution for feeding the needy.
"For instance, those living alone may not be motivated to cook, whereas those with health conditions like diabetes should avoid consuming too many carbohydrates," she said.
A 24/7 food drop allows people to leave food donations.
Needy resident Ahmad Maricar, 82, collected eight food items at the store opening, including sardines, milk and cheese.
Mr Ahmad said he may not use items like light sauce and instant noodles in standard food packs.
"I prefer to choose the items myself, because I can take things that I will use. The shop has plenty of useful items to choose from, and I can even select the brands."
He lives with his daughter, 49, a single mother who works at a supermarket, and her two children, 15 and 17. They have a gross monthly household income of $950.