SINGAPORE: "Aunty, (we are) not a supermarket. If you want to pick and choose, go to a supermarket," said a food rescue volunteer in jest as she handed out free vegetables to the public on Friday (Sep 14).
It was SG Food Rescue's third food wastage awareness drive - an event where they distribute "rescued" food items that are edible but were thrown out by suppliers.
About 800kg of food was given away to more than 200 members of the public in two hours from a room at the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) office on Maxwell Road.
These were collected a day earlier from Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre by SG Food Rescue's co-founder Daniel Tay and his volunteers. What they collect makes up only a small percentage of the roughly 2,000 tonnes of food thrown away daily.
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The produce distributed are "perfectly edible" but were rejected by suppliers because they "don't look nice", he said.
Mr Tay said they already have programmes where leftover fresh produce is distributed to low-income families through charity organisations.
However, these programmes do little to raise awareness of how much food waste there is, Mr Tay said.
"We wanted to target a different audience - one that normally buys food at supermarkets. We want to show them that all these food that they normally buy are thrown away and to get them to ask questions like why are all these good quality food being thrown away," Mr Tay said.
On offer were 15 varieties of fruit and vegetables such as zucchinis, french beans, cabbage, lettuce, onions, passion fruit and oranges.
"A lot of waste takes place before they even get to the shelves and all these would have never made it to the supermarket shelves," he added.
MAKING THE VEGETABLES PRESENTABLE
About 50 to 80 per cent of the food collected is salvageable, said Mr Tay. His volunteers go through the produce and toss out or cut off parts that are mouldy or rotten.
For their latest rescue mission, the group received free sacks of onions but there were some rotten onions thrown into the mix. It took the volunteers several hours of sorting to prepare them for the public giveaway.
"Some onions were mushy and wet on its outer layers. So we used knives to peel off the outer layers, revealing their pristine insides," he said.
While the group took time and effort to trim the onions, business owners may just toss these seemingly spoilt onions out because it is more cost effective, Mr Tay said.
VEGETABLES IN "VERY GOOD CONDITION"
Ms Andrea Haw, who works in the Central Business District, was the first in line at the distribution drive.
"I cook so I was interested to help out in the initiative by joining in this movement to reduce food wastage. Most of the vegetables are still in very good condition. It's just that they don't get sold in a supermarket," said Ms Haw.
Those who wanted to get the vegetables had to bring their own bags and they get only four minutes to collect any fresh produce to help the queue move quickly.
Ms Shirley Goh travelled from her home in Jurong to take a look at the vegetables, in particular, the french beans.
"When I saw the photo of the french beans posted on Facebook, I wanted to come down because I love french beans. When you buy from the market, you only get a small bunch for S$1.50. If I can get fill half my shopping bag, I think I can save S$20," she said.
Ms Goh added that it will benefit more people and increase awareness of food wastage if Mr Tay's food rescue market moves around Singapore.
Ms Tan Soke Kiang, a cleaner who works nearby, said it was her second time at the distribution drive.
"I came to queue during my lunch time for my foreign colleagues. They are Malaysians and quite poor. So I just came to get some vegetables for them to help them out. I don't cook at all because I'm by myself, so it's all for them," Madam Tan said.