Will you buy a blemished potato, a discoloured capsicum or an overripe pear?
In 2017, when Daniel Tay and other freegans – people who reject consumerism with the aim to Reduce Wastage – approached vegetable sellers at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre for unwanted produce, they were astonished by what they found.
Crates of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, bananas and other unsellable vegetables and fruits were cast aside for disposal. Others were discarded because they were too big or small to fit the packaging!
“Even though the veggies are imperfect, they are still delicious,” says Daniel, dismayed at the amount of wastage he saw.
It spurred him into action. He co-founded SG Food Rescue with the goal to reduce food waste in Singapore. The group counts more than 350 active volunteers, or “food rescuers” among its ranks and its Facebook group has nearly 13,000 members.
From Unwanted to Needed
With more food than the rescuers can consume, Daniel sought out charity organisations with the capacity to use and distribute the food they collect each week at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, Little India and other sources.
“We found a good match in Krishna Kitchen, a community soup kitchen that provides up to 1,000 free vegetarian meals to the needy each day,” he shares. SG Food Rescue sends about 500kg of food to Krishna Kitchen, which makes up 30% of what the charity receives each week.
Beyond Social Services is another recipient. Their volunteers sort the vegetables, trim off inedible bits and distribute the rest to low income families staying in rental flats. Free Food for All, a charity that distributes 500 free meals daily to the needy, also receives vegetables and fruits from the group’s “Veggie Rescues”.
Twice a week, SG Food Rescue stocks up community fridges located at void decks with rescued vegetables and fruits. On one occasion, the volunteers gave a batch of mouldy grapes to a community garden to use as fertilisers. A few weeks later, they were delighted to find fresh harvest from the garden filling up the community fridge nearby!
Sparking off a Food Chain
Daniel believes that communities are formed over food. When he first started as a freegan, he asked three of his neighbours to pass him their extra food. “They are happy to find an outlet for what they cannot finish and even thanked me for that!” laughs Daniel. “As the days pass, we learn a lot about each other and become friends. It is really fascinating.”
A bread-sharing group he started has sparked off a chain reaction – members are forming their own groups to rescue bread from other bakeries. “You won’t believe how much bread is wasted in Singapore each day!” he sighs.
Over time, even naysayers have warmed up to the idea of food rescue. Daniel’s parents used to frown upon his freegan lifestyle. Now they pack the extra food he brings back and send them to their own friends.
Some food rescuers collect the food not for themselves, but to give to those in need. Others want to save on food cost, or do their part for the environment. Regardless of their reasons, Daniel is happy to see the food put to good use.
On a more personal note, he is enjoying his freegan lifestyle, which often yields unexpected finds.
“One of the amazing things of food rescue is, you get to try different types of food and you never know what is coming your way!”
Photos courtesy of SG Food Rescue
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