The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2018

Nizar Mohamed Shariff and Free Food for All: Providing free halal food and groceries to the needy

Mr Nizar Mohd Shariff is the founder of Free Food For All, a charity that provides free halal meals for the less fortunate, regardless of race or religion.
Mr Nizar Mohamed Shariff, 48, poured in a large part of his savings to start a charity called Free Food for All. While it provides halal food, it also counts non-Muslims among its beneficiaries.
Mr Nizar Mohamed Shariff, 48, poured in a large part of his savings to start a charity called Free Food for All. While it provides halal food, it also counts non-Muslims among its beneficiaries.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year seeks to honour Singaporeans whose extraordinary acts of goodwill have improved their community and the lives of others. Today, The Straits Times announces the last batch of finalists for the fourth edition of the award - a long-time dedicated blood donor, two men who risked their lives to save Thai boys trapped in a cave, a young woman driven by interfaith work, a former businessman serving up free food to the needy and an academic who has advanced the discussion on inequality in Singapore.

Mr Nizar Mohamed Shariff noticed that few charities were providing halal food regularly to the needy when he was taking a break from running his shipping business back in 2014.

Hoping to contribute socially, he decided to pour in a large part of his savings to start a charity called Free Food for All to provide balanced halal meals as well as food and groceries to the needy.

Mr Nizar, 48, found his calling doing charity work, and decided to focus on such work full-time.

While Free Food for All provides halal food, it counts non-Muslims among its beneficiaries.

From two contracted kitchens, the charity cooks up to 100,000 meals a year for 3,000 elderly or low-income residents living in rental flats across Singapore. Each month, the charity also delivers up to 12 tonnes of food, including groceries, bread and fruits.

"At the start, I used up most of my savings," he said. "It was not enough, but I realised there were so many people who needed food but did not have the resources."

 
 
 
 
 

The charity later started to partner organisations such as Foodbank Singapore, RedMart and SG Food Rescue to deliver bread and groceries to the needy five days a week.

As the amount of cash and food donations fluctuates, Mr Nizar still dips into his savings sometimes to fund the charity, which has two other full-time staff. He continues to run the charity despite finding it hard to walk as he has diabetic neuropathy, which affects his nerves.

The charity has helped not just the needy in Singapore, but also those overseas. Last year, it set up soup kitchens in places like quake-affected areas in Lombok and Sulawesi, Indonesia. "In Lombok, we served about 200 meals a day for six weeks," he said.

After starting a project to distribute food to the Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh this year, he is now working on his next project: to deliver ready-to-eat food to war-torn Yemen.

Mr Nizar hopes to feed 5,000 families in Yemen with packets of boneless chicken cooked with rice infused with kabsha spices, which have a two-year shelf life. People can buy the food packets for themselves online.

With each purchase, the buyer is also paying for one meal to be distributed to the needy.

Mr Nizar stressed that the work done by his charity is a collective effort. He said: "If I did it alone, it would be a very difficult task, but with the whole community helping, we support each other."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2018, with the headline 'Providing free halal food and groceries to the needy'. Print Edition | Subscribe