The Lees, who own the Cambridge Road Hong Kong Roast Pork stall, have been feeding needy residents in the Pek Kio neighbourhood for the past 40 years. From just providing free meals to about 10 people a month, they now see about 140 monthly.
To address the problem of identifying who is really in need of a meal, they distribute 130 coupons to needy households in the neighbourhood every month. They make it a point to remember them during holidays as well.
“About 20 years ago when all the stalls used to be closed during Lunar New Year, the elderly would complain that they didn’t have food. So I thought I would drop by my stall to cook and pack about 10 to 20 packets for the elderly. It’s just a small thought on my part to give back to the community,” said Mrs Lee.
She added that she sometimes receives up to S$300 a month in donations from members of the public.
The stallowners’ act of kindness has been highlighted by the Chope Food for the Needy movement. It encourages people to go to hawker stalls and to pre-pay for meals for those unable to afford them.
A Facebook page for the movement made reference on Thursday (Jun 18) to a recent incident where McDonald’s staff at a Toa Payoh Hub outlet allegedly mocked an old woman who has been going around asking passers-by to buy her food. A post by one of the people behind Chope Food for the Needy said the episode should not give a bad impression about Singaporeans in general, and that they have come across “so many kind-hearted hawkers and generous ‘chopers'”.
Food from the Heart, a non-profit charity that aims to channel unsold bread and non-perishable items to the underprivileged has also seen greater support in recent years. It started off with donations from 34 bakeries that were channelled to 26 welfare homes. But now, it collects from 115 bakeries and hotels and channels them to over 150 welfare homes.
It also has 32 self-collection centres fanned islandwide reaching out to about 5,400 beneficiaries.
This number has ballooned from just one in 2003. The self-collection centres are set up in collaboration with Resident Committees, Family Service Centres and Senior Activities Centres who evaluate and recommend needy families for our weekly bread and monthly food rations. Rations handed out include unsold bread, collected non-perishable food items such as canned food, rice, oil, noodles, beverages, toiletries and household items.