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Making a Difference From the Heart

Kelly Salance

 
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Fifteen years ago, as Henry and Christine Laimer read the Sunday paper in their Singapore home, they stumbled across a story that would end up changing not just their lives, but the lives of thousands of the people on the island. The article detailed the efforts to feed the hungry with the unsold bread bakeries sent to landfills every day, and as the Austrian expats read, an idea began to germinate: what if bakeries in Singapore could be convinced to donate their leftovers, too?

And with that, the Laimers embarked on a journey that led to the creation of Food from the Heart, a nonprofit that has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade and half. From its initial Bread Run, which drew 120 volunteers, Food from the Heart now boasts 1,700 altruists who divert 28,000 kilograms of bread every month from the landfills to hungry residents all over the island.

That mission meets a very real need, said Jade Tan, for Food from the Heart. A recent study indicates that 105,000 households in Singapore subsist on less than $1,500 SD per month, which means a little more than one out of every ten residences need food assistance. Those figures play a large part in why Food from the Heart continually expands its services to the community, which now includes more than 50 self-collection centers where residents can pick up packages consisting of cooking oil, eggs, fruit, vegetables, and other essentials.

“Many of these families struggle to cope with medical, school, and utility bills, let alone put a nutritious meal on the table,” Tan said. “These ration packs go a long way in helping ensure the 8,190 people in the Community Food Pack program receive the nourishment to go on with their daily lives.”

 Infogrpahic from Food From the Heart. 

Infogrpahic from Food From the Heart. 

In 2017, Food from the Heart distributed nearly 29,000 food packs to those in need to almost 8,000 beneficiaries, Tan said. Meanwhile, the nonprofit also directs food to 41 welfare homes through the Market Place program, which offers items with damaged packaging (or near-expiration) collected from NTUC Fairprice outlets across the island. That program alone has led to the distribution of $5.52 million worth of food to 35,500 residents in 2017.

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Meanwhile, the organization also seeks to increase the number of School Goodie Bag programs on the island, an effort that seeks to combat hunger in Singapore’s schools. “We are currently working with 28 schools on the School Goodie Bag program to serve 5,600 student beneficiaries and their families each month,” Tan said. “We distribute food packs of non-perishable items to 50 of the neediest students in each school to help their families defray living expenses.”

Those food packs include items with high nutritional value, such as milk, oatmeal, and breakfast cereals. “This is in line with our goal to both widen and deepen our contributions to the community as we strive to impact more individuals,” Tan said.

Beyond filling the plates of those in need, Food from the Heart has expanded its services to focus on quality-of-life issues—for example, Toys from the Heart provides toys to children in need, and Birthdays from the Heart gives the underprivileged a chance to celebrate their birthdays with cake and socializing. And the Clean Plate campaign encourages young students to be mindful about wasting food, especially since they often share classrooms with other children who don’t get enough to eat.

 Zendesk volunteers helping to sort and bag food. 

Zendesk volunteers helping to sort and bag food. 

Programs like these—whether its distributing bread, groceries, or toys—are powered by dedication and compassion to bring real change to communities across Singapore. Yet, they can not do it alone. Learn more about how you can volunteer with Food From the Heart here.  And as if volunteering doesn't make you feel good enough, tweet at us (@ZDNeighborFDN) a picture of you volunteering with FFTH and we will send you some Foundation swag!