Story

We Tried Going Without Lunch Money for a Week

We didn’t have to dumpster dive, because our community came together to support us.

The idea for this article was conceived in our office pantry (where else, really?) when we questioned how easy it really is to get free food in Singapore.

We decided to give it a try; we gave up our lunch money for a couple of days and hoped hard that we wouldn’t have to dumpster dive (editor’s note: the marketing team behind Giving.sg is quite squeamish). A lot was learnt about ourselves, and the community around us.

How to get free food from your colleagues

Our week started well. We had our annual staff retreat where lunch was catered, and we managed to scrounge leftovers in the pantry. But by Day 3, our luck had run out. We tried turning to Google to search for free food places, but guilt took over and we couldn’t bring ourselves to go there in the name of a social experiment. It got to 11.30AM, and we’d resigned ourselves to Milo and biscuits, our pantry staples.

But help came in the form of a wonderful colleague. Somehow, word had gotten around that we were doing this experiment, and she’d deliberately saved us leftovers from a team lunch. It was just some pieces of fried chicken between the two of us, hardly the most nutritious meal, but the thought behind it kept our hearts and stomachs full.

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Photo credit: Daniel Food Diary

That week, we were surprised by the different ways in which help came in. Colleagues would leave snacks on our desk, offer us a bite of their da-baoed lunches, or give us tips on how/where to get food. In a way, our little work community rallied together to make sure that we didn’t go hungry.

How does this translate to the larger community?

How do we rally together to give help to those who need it, we wondered. Does the kampung spirit really exist?

We volunteered with Free Food for All to find out

It’s 5pm on a Saturday afternoon, and after getting lost in Macpherson estate, we finally locate the group of volunteers from Free Food for All (FFFA), a charity that distributes food to those who need a meal. Things are running a little behind schedule, but the volunteers are unfazed and wait patiently for the food to arrive.

Once the van arrives, they spring into action separating into small groups to pack the food according to flats, and then blocks. Things are moving so fast; everyone knows exactly what they need to do. “Most of them are regulars” says Diana, an intern at FFFA. Within 15 minutes, all the food is packed, and the volunteers disperse into groups to deliver it to the low-income families living in the area.

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We join a group, led by Maslinda (Lin), headed to Block 12-14. She has a list – on one column, there’s the unit number, and on the other, the number of boxes of food. “We always start from the top” she says, as she holds the lift door open for us. We traipse up and down the staircase of Block 13, knocking on doors and handing out boxes of food to the residents.

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“The last two houses we’ll visit are my own house!” Lin chirps. It takes a while for us to get what she means. Turns out, Lin isn’t just a garang volunteer who seems to know everyone in Block 13. She is also a recipient of food from FFFA.

The kampung spirit exists

And in more ways than we expected. Our work community rallying to feed us was only a small glimpse of the larger community we live in. The kindness and enthusiasm we saw from the FFFA volunteers, some of whom were recipients themselves, who braved the heat to distribute food to their neighbours, left us feeling inspired and confident that we are truly becoming a #CityofGood.

We believe in the power of community. Give a little something, so that no one will ever walk alone.

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