Another Week Beyond – 2135

Dear friends, 

While we support and facilitate food distribution exercises, we do not regard ourselves as a food aid agency. However, because of the pandemic, we distributed 96,117 cooked meals and $818,740 worth of supermarket vouchers last year. Spread across 20 different neighborhoods, our members received a cooked meal at least once a week and up to 5 times when it was really needed. It was not much and whenever we could provide a little more, it was always welcome.

The situation was disturbing and so we embarked on a study to better understand the nature of food insecurity and food aid within a public rental housing neighbourhod. The study was conducted from July to December last year and we will be making our report publicly available in a week’s time. Meanwhile, we are still tidying it up a little and on Tuesday, we sought the views of some donors who had contributed to our food aid efforts.

Food insecurity is not something unimaginable among the donors and one of them wondered why people can’t receive a universal basic income as food donations are never sustainable. He felt that donors with the best intentions will not be able to sustain their aid and the insecurity will exist despite many helping hands. Another felt that giving money will always be difficult as many of those who give do not trust that those who receive will use it wisely. Even with supermarket vouchers, there is always a stamp specifying that alcohol and tobacco products are not allowed.

As a nation of people who love our food, quite often we would hear someone joke that they “live to eat.” Food is a pleasure to savour and our conversations are often peppered with the best places to eat. I am quite sure though that the food we provide our members would not feature in these conversations even if they came from the best restaurants as registering for welfare is not quite the same as registering a reservation at a restaurant.  Nonetheless, as we have discovered, for those who “eat to live,” food is a pleasure not just when they find it tasty but when it is culturally appropriate or when it is associated with happy memories.

As this finding was presented to the donors, a colleague who was listening in found herself thinking of a recent encounter with some parents who had received a $20 food voucher. A mother thanked her   profusely as she was so pleased with the gift. “Thank you so much. I bought my children some bubble tea and we are really happy as we have not had it in such a long time!”  My colleague remembers that she had mixed feelings then as she would have preferred them buying a meal, but she is glad she held her tongue.   Whether one lives to eat or eats to live, our diet each day should include a moment of joy if not more.

We are currently raising funds to help families living in public rental neighbourhoods meet their food needs.  Information about our effort is here and you may contribute by visiting https://bit.ly/jiakbabuay.

Wishing you good health, peace of mind and some moments of joy each day.

Sincerely,

Gerard

Reducing hunger should become the driving force for progress and hope. – Jacques Diouf Director – General of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization from January 1994 to 31 December 2011 

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