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Order, scan, eat: Seniors-in-need go high-tech to claim daily hot meals from food stalls

SINGAPORE — After suffering three strokes in the past two years, 62-year old Seng Thye Meng was unable to work and has been jobless.

Staff of Habibie Seafood, at the coffee shop of Block 829 Tampines Street 81, demonstrating the seamless claiming process.

Staff of Habibie Seafood, at the coffee shop of Block 829 Tampines Street 81, demonstrating the seamless claiming process.

Singapore

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SINGAPORE — After suffering three strokes in the past two years, 62-year old Seng Thye Meng was unable to work and has been jobless.

Living in a rental flat with no family, he gets S$450 a month from the Social Services Office. After paying the bills, the former security guard is left with not much money, so he has been eating just one meal a day, he said.

“On weekends, I will go to the market and buy plain noodles to cook with chilli, so that I will have something to eat,” Mr Seng said.

This changed with the launch of a new year-long pilot initiative earlier this month by non-profit group Food from the Heart, in partnership with OCBC bank and mobile application Food Trust.

Called Project Belanja!, the scheme enables close to 50 beneficiaries from the Evergreen Circle Senior Activity Centre in Tampines to claim one hot meal a day from a choice of two stalls in a coffee shop nearby.

Beneficiaries are issued a card bearing a unique QR code, and stallholders use the Food Trust app on their smartphone to scan the cards and complete the meal redemption process. Stallholders are reimbursed by Food from the Heart on a fortnightly basis.

Mr Seng, who frequents the activity centre, is embracing this “high-tech” way of redeeming his meal. He said: “Old fellows have a tendency to be more forgetful and might lose paper coupons. The (Food Trust QR) card is better because I can keep it with my other cards, like my bus pass, on a lanyard.”

Ms Sim Bee Hia, chief executive officer of Food from the Heart, said that the technology is novel in empowering beneficiaries to choose when and what they wish to eat, and encourages them to step out of their home to socialise.

Depending on how the pilot goes, the number of meals and stalls may be increased in future.

Ms Sim added: “This (pilot scheme) overcomes some problems in current food distribution programmes, such as the elderly being unable to cook the distributed ingredients at home. Dried ingredients also tend to be less nutritious.”

The founder of the app, business consultant Daniel Koh, 41, is hoping to eventually work with more charities and social services organisations to enable more beneficiaries and stall vendors to use the app.

“The disruption that we see in other industries can extend to charities and social services groups, making them more efficient and productive,” he said.

The Food Trust app works along with a live website that allows charities to track when and where beneficiaries are claiming their meals, and track financial reimbursements to stall vendors. “Such data would ensure transparency and also enable social workers to check that beneficiaries are eating their meals regularly,” Mr Koh said.

The Food Trust app was developed pro-bono by Mr Koh and CCS Group, an app development company.

Mr Koh said that he was inspired by the concept of Suspended Coffees in Scotland, where people pay for a cup of coffee that is later given to a person in need.

He also plans to one day enable individuals to conveniently make donations and fund such meals through the app.

“Most Singaporeans don’t mind donating if they can do it conveniently and in small amounts,” he said.

However, issues such as the fees charged by payment-processing firms handling debit and credit cards, which Mr Koh feels are unnecessarily high, will have to be resolved before such a feature is possible.

OCBC bank has pledged close to S$50,000 to fund meals under the project for a year. It is also prepared to provide financial support to expand the programme if the pilot project proves to be successful.

Mr Seng said: “This (initiative) is a blessing.” He has been having two meals a day since he became part of the beneficiaries.

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