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App helps capture seniors’ preferences for donated food

Idea is to move from giving pre-packed rations to market concept that lets recipients choose which items they need.

SINGAPORE: Distributing food and groceries to the needy is a common part of community work, but such items have been known to go to waste when they do not suit the recipients’ lifestyle needs or preferences.

To tackle this problem, a group of youths from Mendaki Club has developed a Web application that allows them to enter and store information about senior citizens’ food choices and capture preferences and trends. The information collated in this database will then be passed to senior activity centres and the Central Singapore Community Development Council, so food distribution programmes can be conducted more efficiently.

The idea, said Mr Muhammad Nadjad Abdul Rahim, 26, who is a co-developer, is to move from giving out pre-packed rations to a market concept involving community stakeholders such as resident volunteers and neighbourhood food suppliers, where recipients can choose which items they need.

Close to 80 Mendaki Club student volunteers from various secondary schools, polytechnics and junior colleges are volunteering for the project. Beginning last December, they visited more than 680 seniors living in Lengkok Bahru and Teck Ghee to understand which food items they preferred.

The application was developed last month. Following that, the volunteers collected data from more than 600 seniors over the past two weekends at two food distribution sessions which were run by NTUC Silver ACE @ Lengkok Bahru centre and Lions Befrienders Senior Activity Centre in Ang Mo Kio. The collated data will be shared with the two centres by the end of this month.

“It’s only when you know what they want and don’t want that you know what food to give and what not to give,” said Mr Nadjad, a postgraduate student at the National University of Singapore. Recalling his volunteering experience, he added: “Seniors who don’t cook a lot get a lot of rice, while vegetarians get tuna packs.”

Mr Archie Ong, chairperson of Community Care of the National University of Singapore Society, which is organising Groceries with Love on Wheels this year in collaboration with the People’s Association, said such a database would come in useful for those running such initiatives.

“It helps to store information and get the profiles of the elderly so you know their needs. We hope this can be shared with voluntary welfare organisations,” he said.

He added that as a volunteer, one has to be discerning to avoid food wastage. “Normally, we’ll ask them what they would like to have and monitor their preferences.”

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