Meal planning, cooking smaller portions and composting: She shows easy ways to cut food waste

She is a shining example of how everyone can help curb the S'pore problem of food waste, which amounted to the weight of 56,000 double decker buses in 2021, according to NEA

Ms Jennifer Yong (right) and her mother compost the few food scraps that cannot be repurposed, such as coffee grounds. PHOTO: JENNIFER YONG

When it comes to cutting food wastage, Ms Jennifer Yong is an expert at home. The vice president of payments and platforms at DBS’ Consumer Banking Group prides herself on having almost no food wastage despite overseeing daily meals for a household of seven, which includes her parents, husband, two teenage sons and a helper. 

She sits with her helper every few days to plan upcoming meals, taking into account who is eating at home. This keeps the family’s grocery shopping trips short and sweet, and prevents overbuying that leads to ingredients going to waste.

At mealtimes, cooking small portions minimises leftovers. She shares: “Even though my kids love chicken wings, for example, that doesn’t mean that they can finish a big batch. If there isn’t enough food, we can always whip up another small dish.”

Parts of ingredients that others might throw away, such as fish bones and prawns’ shells and heads, go into the freezer and end up flavouring stocks and soups for future meals. “We try to see how we can make use of every part of everything,” she says.

She composts the few scraps that she does not repurpose, such as coffee grounds, vegetable ends and fruit peels. “All of this does take work, coordination and planning, but we feel that it’s worthwhile. We save some money because we don’t cook more than we should. More importantly, we get to help the environment by having no food spoilage or wastage.”

Composting food trimmings is one way to cut food waste. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

As Singapore tries to curb its food waste, Ms Yong’s practices may be useful for other families. In 2021, Singapore generated 817,000 tonnes of food waste, equivalent to two bowls of rice per person per day, or around 56,000 double-decker buses. This makes food waste one of the country’s biggest waste streams, and everyone should play their part to reduce it.

If nothing is done, Semakau Landfill, Singapore’s last remaining landfill, will be fully filled by 2035. To avert this, the National Environment Agency (NEA) partners with others, including DBS, for its Say YES to Waste Less (SYTWL) campaign. The annual campaign aims to encourage people to lessen their food wastage and use of disposables.

This will contribute to the Government’s goal of decreasing the amount of waste sent to the landfill by 20 per cent per person per day by 2026, and by another 10 per cent by 2030, thus prolonging its use. 

For Ms Yong, minimising food wastage is also part and parcel of leaving behind a better world for her children and future generations. She explains: “At the end of the day, all food requires resources to produce. We shouldn’t be wasting those resources.”

Tackling food wastage at work

With more people going back to the office in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, she also has tips on how to avoid food wastage at work. In fact, she began her fight against food wastage after joining DBS’s sustainability interest group in 2018.

“The group was new at the time, and we thought that food wastage was one area we should focus on. Eating is a part of everyone’s daily lives, and Singaporeans love to eat,” she says. 

The group put up posters in common areas and sent emails to motivate colleagues to cut their food wastage during work celebrations. This included providing tips on how to do so, such as catering food for only 70 to 80 per cent of a party’s expected number of participants. 

“We also started a Telegram group where employees could share details about food left over from events. You take a photo, post it in the chat and say where the food is and what time it will be there until,” she says. 

The Telegram group also became a way for members to share tips during the height of Covid-19, when having meals at home became the norm. From some 200 members before the pandemic, the chat group has since grown to comprise over 450 members. 

According to NEA, Singapore generated 817,000 tonnes of food waste in 2021, which is equivalent to two bowls of rice per person per day. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

DBS has acted against food wastage in other ways. In 2020, it launched a regional Towards Zero Food Waste initiative with a focus on sparking collective action. Its goals include raising awareness of food waste issues, engaging staff and reducing food waste in DBS’s operations, and teaming up with others to maximise impact. 

It was the first bank to become a partner in NEA’s SYTWL campaign. As part of the campaign in 2020, it worked with restaurant reservation booking platform Chope to launch DBS-Chope Last Hour Deals. Diners get discounts when they eat at participating food and beverage stores in the final hours before closing, helping to reduce food waste. 

It took the idea further in 2021, joining food delivery platform WhyQ to give patrons discounts for ordering meals during the last hour of mealtimes. Last year, it also cooperated with social enterprise Just Dabao, which sells surplus food from restaurants and bakeries at lower prices, to give consumers additional discounts when they pay with DBS and POSB cards. 

To inspire youth in Singapore to tackle food waste, DBS Foundation, the bank’s dedicated social entrepreneurship and community impact arm, and NEA jointly launched the DBS Foundation X NEA Hungry for Change Challenge last year. Students and recent alumni in higher institutes of learning were invited to form teams to submit ideas on how to reduce and upcycle food waste. Selected from some 60 submissions, the five winning teams went on to receive funding support totalling up to $125,000 from DBS Foundation for pilots, in addition to consultations with NEA and opportunities to network with like-minded peers.   

Ms Yong highlights another measure that is close to her heart: the new, sustainable DBS Better World Café for employees, which opened in the bank’s Marina Bay Financial Centre premises last year. The cafe incorporates a whole host of sustainability features, including a sustainable kitchen which sources ingredients from farms and suppliers with responsible agricultural practices; occupancy-based lighting and air-conditioning systems to reduce energy consumption; as well as food composting stations to reduce food waste. 

She says: “I was very impressed because it really prompts you to minimise food wastage. You learn how to manage your food wastage and get into the habit of doing so, and hopefully take these lessons home with you too.”

Visit to find out the incentives that SYTWL partners have to offer.

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