Coronavirus: Food charities to forge ahead to deliver food to needy amid 'circuit breaker' measures

Free Food For All staff and volunteers sorting food packs on one of their home deliveries to families in Yishun on April 6, 2020.
Free Food For All staff and volunteers sorting food packs on one of their home deliveries to families in Yishun on April 6, 2020.PHOTO: NIZAR MOHAMED SHARIFF

SINGAPORE - Even as most workplaces shut down islandwide from Tuesday (April 7), it will be business as usual for Mr Nizar Mohamed Shariff and his four staff members, who will proceed to do their daily home deliveries so that needy families will not go hungry.

Mr Nizar was advised by a friend to halt operations for a month at Free Food For All, a charity he founded in 2014, when news of the "circuit breaker" measures were announced last week.

"I said, 'No, we must continue what we do,'" he told The Straits Times.

"If anything, we should double up our efforts because there are more people who need our help right now," he added.

The organisation the 49-year-old runs has been distributing meals and groceries to elderly and low-income residents living in rental flats for the past six years.

Free Food For All is one of the handful of food charities here which will plough ahead to bring food to the tables of needy households here, amid the circuit breaker measures that will affect all non-essential services from Tuesday.

Community care services such as Meals-on-Wheels (MOW) programmes are included in the list of essential services that will remain open during the one-month circuit breaker.

For most of these charities, the modi operandi have been changed to accommodate the tighter measures. In Free Food For All's case, food packs that are usually distributed to residents at void decks will now be delivered by hand to each household. This will increase the number of home deliveries from 10 previously to about 30 a day.

Apart from hygiene kits, the charity gives out food items such as frozen meals, fruits and vegetables, dried rations, cooking oils and spices.

The MOW programme run by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), will also continue its operations as usual, the AIC told ST. The initiative delivers about 5,300 meals daily islandwide.

With fewer volunteers, MOW service providers are deploying their staff to deliver meals, said the AIC.

 
 

"As such, the service can still continue and seniors are able to receive their meals promptly on a daily basis," the agency added.

Non-profit organisation Food From The Heart distributes some 7,500 food packs every month to needy households via its partners, such as schools, senior activity centres and family service centres.

With the closure of schools and senior activity centres, the organisation is looking into alternative ways to distribute the food packs to its beneficiaries, such as using a commercial delivery platform.

Its chief executive, Ms Sim Bee Hia, noted that the charity has also been receiving dozens of appeals for food donations from individuals as well - something that is "not usually seen".

 
 

"In times like this, I don't think anyone would ask for food unless they really have to," she said.

"We're working out how to cater to them, because we hope that food is something that nobody has to worry about."

Mr Nizar noted that the number of households who have applied to Free Food For All for aid has also increased from 100 to about 1,200 per month, a number beyond the 900 households its current resources can help.

The organisation is appealing for cash donations. "That's the fastest way to help, and best way to stretch the dollar. All the help we can give goes a long way in these times," said Mr Nizar.

Ms Sim also made an appeal to the public not to engage in panic buying.

 
 

"The suppliers we buy from are trying to cope with the influx of demand to fill up supermarkets due to panic buying - it's affecting everything down the food chain.

"Please just buy enough for your family. If not, you'll be impacting charities' work to feed the needy."

Anyone interested in making donations to Free Food For All can contact nizar@freefood.org.sg, while donations to Food From The Heart can be done via the website.