SINGAPORE - A few months into the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, food charity Willing Hearts started receiving more requests for its food distribution.
In response, its volunteers ramped up production in its kitchen at Chai Chee, packing roughly 11,000 meals, compared with the 7,000 before the pandemic.
Now, the charity will be able to cook up to 15,000 meals a day - or 4,000 more than before - with the opening of its new soup kitchen in Joo Chiat.
The new kitchen is about the size of three four-room Housing Board flats and is three times bigger than the charity's previous premises in Chai Chee. It includes facilities that will help Willing Hearts boost its meal production, such as industrial ovens and stove tops.
The new premises is also expected to serve as a shelter for homeless beneficiaries from August this year.
Willing Hearts founder Tony Tay said the charity is looking to recruit more volunteers and expand its services.
Mr Tay, who began the charity in his home kitchen in 2003, said: "During the pandemic, we saw more requests from different groups of residents, like elderly living alone and families who have lost their income, so we decided to step up our efforts to help them.
"It is the vision of the volunteers that has helped us move into the new space, and I am thankful for their support."
During his opening address at the blessing ceremony for the new premises on Thursday (May 12), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, who was the guest of honour, noted the dedication of the charity's volunteers to transition to the new kitchen.
He said: "I believe these are the ways we can make Singapore truly more inclusive and a place in which people will say there will be someone to look out and care for them. I think we start by putting a hot meal on the table."
The halal-certified kitchen is managed by a team of about 200 volunteers and runs throughout the year. It produces a nutritious spread daily, with about a tonne of rice cooked each day.
Mr Tay said the charity, which receives support from wholesale producers and sponsors such as RedMart and Amazon for its groceries, has been able to continue providing cooked food to its beneficiaries despite rising raw material costs in recent months.
Looking ahead, Mr Tay is hopeful the charity will find new ways of helping the community.
He said: "While we will continue offering more meals to those in need, I hope that the number of people requesting our meals will go down, because that would mean more people are not facing hardship and they are able to put food on the table.
"Instead, we will find new ways of giving help to those around us, spreading a message of unity and the willingness to help, whether it is by giving shelter or giving someone an opportunity to give back to the community."