Vending machines in neighbourhoods to dispense free nutritious hot meals to low-income families

Ms Ivy Lai, Country Manager, Philips Singapore, announces Philips Foundation-Food Bank Singapore partnership with Ms Nichol Ng (left), Co-founder, The Food Bank Singapore. PHOTO: PHILIPS FOUNDATION
The Food Bank has partnered Philips Foundation to distribute 45,000 "bank cards" that individuals islandwide can use at the machines. PHOTO: PHILIPS FOUNDATION

SINGAPORE - Up to 45,000 people from low-income families can soon get a free hot meal at any time from a vending machine at a void deck in their neighbourhood under a new community initiative.

The Food Bank has partnered Philips Foundation to distribute 45,000 "bank cards" that individuals islandwide can use at the machines, said Philips in a statement on Thursday (Nov 12). Philips Foundation is the charitable arm of the multinational tech conglomerate.

Each card will have 50 monthly credits that cannot be rolled over if unused. Each meal costs three credits and each dry food item, two credits.

Apart from funding the cards, the company has sponsored the installation of two dry food dispensing and one hot bento meal dispensing vending machines located at Block 131 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, which have been in use since Oct 27.

The dry food machine dispenses donated food from suppliers and individuals that might otherwise have gone to waste, like vermicelli, canned vegetables and meat and powdered beverage formulas, among others.

The hot food machine dispenses nutritious meals endorsed by the Singapore Heart Foundation, such as red rice vermicelli with kung pao chicken and long beans, ginger fish with brown and white rice, and curry chicken with brown and white rice.

The meals have been assessed by a certified nutritionist and contain less than 500 calories each.

These vending machines are under an educational initiative by Philips and the Food Bank called "Powering better living through access to nutrition", which aims to bring nutritious meals and increase outreach on nutrition education to low-income households.

Under the scheme, there are also plans to outfit a Food Bank show kitchen with Philips appliances to demonstrate and educate beneficiaries on creating simple, convenient and nutritious meals at home, as well as hold workshops on nutritious food preparation , in partnership with the Singapore Heart Foundation.

While only one set of machines is currently in use, the Food Bank plans to expand this islandwide in the next three months by getting other organisations onboard to sponsor the machines.

Mr Eric Chua, Parlimentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, said that food support organisations play an important role in helping low-income and vulnerable families stretch their dollar.

"I am pleased to hear about this innovative initiative by Food Bank Singapore and Philips Foundation to both provide healthier meals, and empower beneficiaries to prepare nutritious meals and build healthy eating habits," he said.

Philips Singapore country manager Ivy Lai said: "Leveraging Philips' expertise in health and wellness, this programme aims to improve health equity by physically increasing access to nutritious meals and the execution of an educational outreach programme for beneficiaries and the wider public."

Food Bank co-founder and chief food officer Nichol Ng said that with the recent rise in "food insecure" households in Singapore, there is a pressing need to provide contactless, safe and nutritious hot food options for many who do not have ready access to them.

"When developing these meals with the Singapore Heart Foundation, we took into consideration factors that would support sustainable habits for long-term health, like nutritional content, accessibility of ingredients, the population's taste preferences and convenience of consumption," she added.

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