Free Food for All (FFFA) by Mr. Nizar
I am Nizar and I manage both Food for Change (FFC) and Free Food For All (FFFA). FFFA is a registered charity with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status. Our primary mission is to be in service to the community, providing food aid to combat food insecurity, as well as mitigating food waste.
We not only feed — We also empower, strengthen and build bonds, and hopefully much more. I would say that we are a solutions provider. We provide solutions instead of ideas. From time to time, we also have to bridge the gap and disconnection that may exist in families. We offer assistance to children to get along well with their foster parents and family members.
Our secondary mission is to build bridges within the community and empower clients. We refer to our beneficiaries as our clients. In FFFA, we look into the following campaigns to help people in different areas. The first is a job matching campaign, the second is a food aid campaign and the third and final, a psycho-social campaign.
If you see us sending food to someone’s home, it is because that person has asked for food aid and we are providing them some form of relief. We are unable to provide 100% relief to anyone because it is not possible to address 100% of someone’s needs. The aid we offer is usually around an estimated 50 - 70% relief. By helping the beneficiaries, they can probably save around $100 - $200 by not having to buy groceries. Sometimes, it’s a one-time help while at other times, it could be three to six months of help. Other than food aid, we also want our beneficiaries to empower themselves, be it learning a new skill or to be assisted psychologically via a psycho-social programme.
Eventually, we want to give our beneficiaries an opportunity to be a contributor to society and earn their keep. If any of the beneficiaries cannot earn their own keep because of health or other reasons, it is fine. However, if it’s because they feel they are not suitable for a job, then changes need to be considered. That is where the various campaigns I have planned come in to empower people.
As a food charity, food is what we use to open doors of opportunities for others and build a bond with them. We use food to see how we can help others on a more holistic level. 43% of our beneficiaries are focused on the elderlies due to the current demographics in Singapore. A small percentage of help goes to migrant workers and the homeless. The majority of help still goes to the low-income families with children. They need a special set of assistance.
For example, other than giving parents food such as frozen chicken, vegetables, rice or cooking oil, their children also need a good breakfast prepared for them. We do not want children to go to school hungry thus we have a campaign called “Kids Love It”. We supply families with whole grain cereal, skim milk, chocolate spread, peanut butter, energy bars and honey. These are food they can take quickly on their own without disturbing their parents and they don’t need to go to school hungry. We have been doing this for a couple of months now. What we hope to achieve is that, when children do not go to school hungry, they are able to learn better and grow well. Hopefully, the development of their minds will lead them to become better contributing members of society. A lot of the younger generation or the children today who are currently in primary school will be the ones tasked to take care of us in future. We need to ensure that they are in the best condition.
What’s in for 2021? Last year, around September 2020, I realised there was a big problem when beneficiaries were asked to collect food because they might not be strong enough to carry heavy grocery bags or it did not make sense for them to pay for expensive taxi fares to receive their grocery bag. I thought of the option of doing home delivery instead as a means of providing assistance once a month and to build closer relations with the people we already know. We started with around 100 to 120 deliveries a month.
Then Covid-19 happened. We had to find a way to increase the capacity of home deliveries to more than 4 times the current number. A strong supporter told me that it was time for me to stop the home deliveries, but I insisted this was the way to go especially since this was the time when Singapore needed us. We gathered all our resources for the community in need and we did it. Starting from April 2020, supply went up. Companies like Temasek Foundation started coming forward and we averaged around 1,000 households a month. What I also like about our plan is that there is no waste. When the clients in need call, they have a choice on what they need. Previously, we couldn’t do this when we provided standard items in a bag. This is indeed an advantage. We are able to provide what each family needs without them having to leave their house.
In a nutshell, I am here to champion people. Other than FFFA, there is also Food For Change (FFC) for overseas projects. FFC falls under a different set of company and accounts from FFFA since it is mostly done overseas. The government is aware of what I am doing. I have done desalination plants in Palestine, water projects in Ghana and food projects in several other places. Last weekend, we served the Lebanese people who are having a hard time in their country now. They were grateful for the food received. I will be doing another project in Yemen shortly. We are preparing ready to eat meals for those in need. Currently, we are preparing for the cost of food using our own resources and public funding, if any. We cannot wait if people are starving. Winter is approaching and that is when they need food most.
What is one struggle of FFFA that most Singaporeans are unaware of? Singaporeans must realise that not all of the food recipients out there are lazy. Most of the unfortunate people are first generation people living there who have gone through struggles. They fell through the gaps due to some Singapore policies. For example, there are divorced women or mothers who find it difficult to survive day to day life or to get a rental place. I feel this needs to change or their children will face similar difficulties. They will absorb what surrounds them. Being poor does not mean one lives in a messy or dirty place.
The ability for the young to learn from the old is a gift. Hence, I am looking for sincere, passionate volunteers who can take pictures, be creative and tell stories, take videos and help with documentation. People grow old but they used to be crucial members of the society. For example, my most memorable days in my youth were times spent with my grandfather. I used to listen to his stories, and I have learnt so much from them. Once, I came across a rather depressed lady, Habibah, who misses her grandchild because her daughter was estranged from her. I spent time listening to her stories and over time, she opened up to me and became joyful. We must make time to listen to the stories of others and light up their sad and lonely lives.
How have we inspired others? So far, there was one person whom we have successfully helped with all 3 campaigns mentioned earlier. Her name is Mdm Rima. She is also someone whom we have featured on Channel News Asia. She has been covered quite a lot by Singapore media and moved from being a client receiving food aid to becoming a volunteer who takes charge of food aid in Yishun. Now, she is motivating others to donate. I do not need to worry about finding food for people in Yishun anymore, as she goes around under FFFA to get people to donate. She has been empowered and now has furniture in her flat. Previously, her son had to sleep on the sofa while she would sleep on the floor. Now they have a bed and they have moved up in life. They have moved out from a one room rental bedroom to a bigger flat. That’s empowerment and successful engaging of a client and now, she’s an asset to us. Of course, not everyone can follow her footsteps, but we are trying to achieve that.
Certain milestones in FFFA that I was very proud of is that somehow or rather, despite the number of red tapes I had to go through, I did not give up on the radical ideas I had for FFFA. For us in the organisation, we just did what we needed to do. I guess I could not just sit on the laurels and assume everything would go on fine without trying anything new. I’m always trying to find ways on how to digitalise the process of helping others. I’m very proud to say that we have done very well in our campaigns too.
At Free Food For All, we provide free meals that are nutritious and tasty to those in need and who qualify for one of our assistance programmes. We provide relief by fulfilling a basic human need for food and empower our beneficiaries to take action and raise themselves out of poverty.
We aim to rekindle the kampong spirit through fostering strong ties between neighbours and the community.
Free Food For All is a project for the Community, by the Community. Ending hunger is no longer a matter of means but rather a matter of will. As a society, we are capable of ensuring that no one in Singapore has to go hungry again.