Fifty national servicemen (NSmen) and their families tucked into an appreciation lunch yesterday, held in Sembawang GRC, at what seemed like any normal feast.
Except that the dishes like salted prawns with basil leaves and kang kong with sambal were cooked by members of the community with vegetables grown there, to thank their NSmen.
The lunch held at Woodlands Galaxy Community Club included ingredients from the GRC's Community Garden Project, which began in 2014 and harvested close to 130kg of vegetables this year.
In 2014, residents doubling up as community gardeners contributed 250kg of vegetables sold at a farmers' market, with proceeds donated to Man Fut Tong Nursing Home.
In 2015, harvests were donated to vulnerable residents, nursing homes and volunteer welfare organisations.
Last year, the vegetables and fruits were used to cook a meal for more than 200 needy residents.
This year, residents say they are happy that the fruits of their labour were used at a feast honouring NSmen and their contributions.
Sembawang Close resident Nancy Ng, 74, said community gardening is a form of exercise for retirees like her, and a way to bond with others living in the area.
"It's good for older residents to be around the greenery, and for children here to learn about the vegetables and fruit," she said.
Yesterday, over 170 residents were joined at the meal by Sembawang GRC's grassroots advisers: Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin, adviser to Canberra grassroots organisations Lim Wee Kiak, and adviser to Admiralty grassroots organisations Vikram Nair.
Mr Ong said he hopes that such community initiatives can continue with an upcoming project called Sembawang Community Hub, which can become a congregation point for residents to grow their own produce, culminating in a farmers' market in the next few years.
He added that he hopes to make NS useful for the younger generation, in team-building and leadership training.
"We will also continue to make NS safe for everybody," added Mr Ong, who is also Second Minister for Defence, in his opening address yesterday.
NSman Sylvester Lee, 28, who is a civil servant, said he is glad his family was present to witness the event.
"In NS, you are put into different situations, and the challenges are real, because there are emerging threats from around the world now. It is a way to make yourself more prepared for any situation," he added.
Seow Bei Yi