Upcoming app aims to tackle food wastage and food insecurity

Ms Audrey Wong and Mr Jameson Chow of The Food Bank Singapore sorting out donated food last December. The new virtual food banking app will allow donors to share the type and quantity of food they have in real time, which food support organisations c
Ms Audrey Wong and Mr Jameson Chow of The Food Bank Singapore sorting out donated food last December. The new virtual food banking app will allow donors to share the type and quantity of food they have in real time, which food support organisations can view on the platform.ST FILE PHOTO

An application for matching food donors with organisations that provide food to the needy is expected to be rolled out in the last quarter of the year.

The virtual food banking app, a partnership between DBS Bank and food charity The Food Bank Singapore, is aimed at tackling the twin issues of food wastage and food insecurity here, said DBS in a statement yesterday.

The app will allow donors to share the type and quantity of food they have in real time, which food support organisations can view on the platform.

This will hopefully facilitate better food matching, ensuring that those in need receive the right amount and types of food, as well as reducing food waste, said DBS. The bank is financing the development of the app, which started early this year.

A United Nations report on global food security and nutrition last year found that 4.1 per cent of Singapore's population face moderate to severe food insecurity, with people experiencing hunger and issues with obtaining food or having to compromise on quality or quantity of food consumed.

Most Singaporeans who are food insecure, such as seniors or people from low-income families facing long-term unemployment or health issues, receive support from more than 100 food support organisations here, said DBS.

It hopes the app will help plug the gaps in the support system.

For instance, a large amount of food now goes to beneficiaries living in rental flats. This may be because ground-up initiatives and well-intentioned donors assume that those in rental flats are most in need and hence channel donations there. But this may cause duplication in food donations to those recipients, resulting in food left past its shelf life and being thrown away eventually.

The goal is to first remove duplication at the non-governmental organisation level, and later to review the needs on the ground, said The Food Bank co-founder Nichol Ng.

On the other hand, some households with large families and who need help putting the next meal on the table currently fall through the cracks, as they do not meet the criteria for housing type or household income, said DBS. It hopes the app can help increase the efficiency and speed at which the organisations help this group as well.

By connecting donors, social service agencies, food support organisations and logistics providers on a single platform, the app can help streamline the food donation process. It will also collect data for analysis so that the organisations can better understand the needs on the ground.

Trials for the platform began this week, with The Food Bank inviting more than 300 charities in its network to come on board.

FACILITATING FOOD AID

The app will be a great starting point to test a circular ecosystem where donors, beneficiary organisations and logistics providers can be looped onto one platform to better facilitate food aid.

MS NICHOL NG, co-founder of The Food Bank Singapore.

The announcement of this platform comes after a multi-agency work group was set up late last year to tackle food wastage and food insecurity here, looking at the possible links between the two issues and ways to address them.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said he was heartened by the "innovative collaboration" by DBS and The Food Bank. "This is a timely initiative, which could enhance the way we organise food aid and coordinate donations as we tide through Covid-19 together," he said.

DBS Singapore country head Shee Tse Koon said: "With the virtual food banking app, we will have greater visibility of the support gaps in Singapore, and we hope more donors will be encouraged to come forth and make the commitment with us to help put food on the table for those in need."

The Food Bank's Ms Ng said that without big data, it is tougher to address the gaps in feeding programmes across agencies.

"The app will be a great starting point to test a circular ecosystem where donors, beneficiary organisations and logistics providers can be looped onto one platform to better facilitate food aid."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2020, with the headline 'Upcoming app aims to tackle food wastage and food insecurity'. Subscribe