Pay as you wish: Pantry staples, free snacks up for grabs as food waste social enterprise moves out of Chinatown space
MoNo Singapore diverts food that is bound for the bin and makes them accessible for those that believe in reducing food waste.
SINGAPORE: The shelves at MoNo’s soon-to-be-shuttered space at a hotel in Chinatown are lined with everything you could want in a pantry – a variety of condiments, noodles, canned goods and snacks that would make anyone with a sweet tooth smile.
In the middle of the social enterprise’s humble headquarters at Hotel Calmo stands a mound of boxed oat milk. Nearby lies a stash of Japanese and Korean snacks, as well as niche items such as vegan mayonnaise and butter.
Shoppers are invited to pay as they wish for their haul, or even to take some items home for free. The catch? Most of these goods have passed their “best by” date but are still perfectly good to eat.
MoNo will be redistributing these food items, sent or donated to them by suppliers and distributors, until 6pm on Friday (Feb 3).
“Mono’s warehouse space in downtown Singapore has served us well. Thank you to all who came by to support our cause to reduce food waste,” it said on Instagram, adding that they will be on hiatus until further notice due to building renovation, maintenance and “other reasons”.
Food items will be available at both MoNo’s space in Hotel Calmo, as well as along Smith Street, until Friday evening.
“Do come by and give these foods a second chance. You can contribute any amount which would go towards supporting MoNo’s cause to fight food wastage and our search for another suitable space in the downtown area.”
Speaking to CNA, co-founder Mr Leonard Shee said MoNo focuses on receiving shelf-stable items with “best before” labels instead of expiry dates.
Many of their items are also several months shy of reaching their "best before" date – ranging from three to nine months. The 36-year-old, who works at MoNo full-time, shared that some retailers reject such goods as they are perceived to be difficult to sell.
“Instead of discarding, (distributors) now give a second chance,” he said, adding that these companies also benefit from the exposure when more people try their products.
According to its website, MoNo aims to change consumer mindsets on foods past their "best before" dates that are still safe for consumption. It does so by diverting food from the bin or incinerator and “redistributing them to a community that believes in reducing food waste”.
“Ultimately, it is a win for all: Suppliers find a way to manage such inventory, consumers get perfectly edible food at discounted prices and most importantly, it helps to combat food waste and save our environment as less food waste ends up in incineration plants, saving on electricity required to run these plants.”
CONVENIENCE IS IMPORTANT
Regarding their search for another space in the downtown area, Mr Shee said that convenience for shoppers is of utmost priority. Based on feedback, many of their patrons value an easily accessible location, with price being a secondary consideration.
Many drop by after work to pick up what they need and make this a daily routine, he added.
CNA observed a steady stream of people of all ages visiting the space on Thursday evening, some with trolley bags in tow. Among the popular items was the oat milk, with one shopper taking home a box of six cartons.
Although MoNo will be on a physical hiatus from this weekend, they will continue working with several food rescue groups behind the scenes until they can find a new home for their wares.
On their wish list is to find another location that is air conditioned and within their budget, similar to their makeshift space in Hotel Calmo.
This helps ensure that all their products stay in the best condition possible for a longer period of time. Although MoNo does not stock perishables, Mr Shee said that items such as potato chips can degrade faster in warmer temperatures.
“On average, there are people who come and just want to contribute to help us to stay here. The funds (we collect) are mostly for two things – first is logistics and second is storage. So there are people who, especially the affluent ones in this area, they will take one or two cartons and donate S$50.”
There are also a few who contribute S$1 or S$2 or sometimes nothing at all.
“We are okay with both, it balances off on its own. We learned that, from experience, it is better to just let people contribute any amount they want.”
Those who want to visit MoNo can find it via Hotel Calmo's entrance along Temple Street. And as it said on Instagram, bring your trolley and shopping bag.