Forgotten: Healthier hawker food programme

The Health Promotion Board's Healthier Hawker Food Programme was first launched in April 2011.
The Health Promotion Board's Healthier Hawker Food Programme was first launched in April 2011. PHOTO: ST FILE

A stall at Eunos Crescent Market and Food Centre has an A4 size poster stating that it sells char kuay teow fried with healthier oil.

But its owner, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, said he stopped using the oil a month after it was introduced by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

"It was too troublesome. I had to call the supplier to send the oil over and it would take a few days. I can just walk over to the market and buy some," he told The Straits Times. "Oil is all the same."

The poster, he added, is usually covered by a stack of trays anyway.

The HPB's Healthier Hawker Food Programme, first launched in April 2011 to give people access to more healthy options when dining out by getting hawkers to use healthier ingredients, has since disappeared.

As of 2014 - the last time the HPB's webpage on this programme was updated - there were 16 eateries on board. Three years later, stall owners at some of these hawker centres told The Straits Times that they did not know what has become of the scheme.

Some, like Mr Lim, have gone back to cooking food the way they are used to. Others, like Ms Pawida Osman, who runs a Malay stall in Eunos, continue using the healthier oil, but have not got updates from the authorities in recent years.

"We are still using the oil," she said. "We haven't changed anything else, but that's all."

The Straits Times understands that the programme is no longer running and eateries are now encouraged to have healthier menu options under the Healthier Dining Programme. Those under this programme can apply for a grant to help them develop and promote healthier menu options.

The programme, however, is geared towards larger chains like food courts, restaurants and caterers, and less so towards hawkers.

However, some hawkers remain committed to providing healthier options and are seeing the benefits.

Madam Yeo Ping Ping, a yong tau foo seller at Yuhua Hawker Centre, sells a bowl of brown rice for $1, or brown rice mixed with white for 50 cents.

"At the start, I would ask people if they wanted brown rice, and they would say no, but after about six months, they started to ask for it without my prompting them," said

But she said other stall owners find it troublesome to offer brown rice. Said Madam Yeo: "You have to prepare a whole extra pot of rice."

Linette Lai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'Forgotten: Healthier hawker food programme'. Subscribe