#HerWorldHerStory: She ‘rescues’ unwanted food and gives them out to those in need

by Hayley Tai & Cheong Wen Xuan  /   September 3, 2020

Janet Lee is the co-founder of Food Rescue @Sengkang


janet-lee-sengkang-food-rescue-waste

There’s so much food waste in Singapore. During the pandemic, food wastage increased at wholesale centres. I also realised that affected individuals needed our supply of food more than ever.

My husband and I ramped up our efforts in our food distribution, “rescuing” edible foods from more than 10 wholesalers and retailers.

I started distributing food in Sengkang (where I live) on a small scale with five to 10 neighbours in 2018. The distribution has grown into an island-wide food wastage reduction initiative. Families from all over Singapore are regulars at our weekly distributions. The volunteers and I distribute the food collected such as vegetables, fruits and bread.

During the Circuit Breaker, we increased the frequency of our food “rescue missions” as there were more families affected by job losses. In April, various migrant worker dormitories reached out to me via Telegram and Facebook. So we sent food to the dorms.

The migrant workers need our support as they’re one of the communities affected by the pandemic. Many were jobless, others were forced to take leave with no income. We now supply food to them on an ad hoc basis. There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing how happy they are when they receive food from us.

janet-lee-sengkang-food-rescue-waste

We hold two types of food distributions – one for bread and a weekly one (Saturday) for fruits and vegetables. From Monday to Friday, we head to the bakeries at 9.30pm to collect leftover bread. The loaves will be given out at the void deck of Block 415 Fernvale Link on the same night before 11.30pm.

On Saturday, we start at 10am. We drive to wholesale centres to collect rejected fruits and vegetables. We are lucky to have volunteer drivers who provide transport.

Then we sort the food into cartons and set up our distribution “pasars”. Our largest drive is at a sheltered public pavilion in Fernvale, which is our headquarters. Volunteers are also stationed at smaller drives at Jalan Kayu and Anchorvale. Each family gets about a week’s worth of vegetables.

It’s a lot of work, and many of us (40 volunteers) have day jobs. I run a corporate gift business, and my husband and I also have a home services business. Still, we enjoy seeing the happy faces of our food rescue recipients. We take a break on Sunday so we don’t burn out. We now have over 300 families (about 1,500 people) coming to us at our distribution points.

We’ve also allocated some portion of food for the fridge restock programmes at locations like Punggol and Tampines. Residents can collect fresh fruits and vegetables from these community fridges at the ground level of the blocks.

My husband and I are committed to doing this for a long time. If I meet with manpower issues, I’m not shy to ask for help. Reducing food waste through charity is my way of giving back to the community.

This article was first published in Her World’s August issue. Grab a copy today!