LIM WAN LEE (b. 1989), GERALDINE WILSON (b. 1985)
Feed people, not bins.
This is the motto of SG Food Rescue, a group of volunteers in Singapore who are passionate about reducing food waste. The roots of SG Food Rescue are in “freeganism”, which is a movement that preaches a reduction of waste. Lim Wan Lee and Geraldine Wilson are “food rescuers”, along with a community of more than 14,000 on the group’s Facebook page. Wan Lee heads the group, which was set up in 2018, while Geraldine joined last year.
One of the main programmes of SG Food Rescue is Veggie Rescue, where volunteers collect unwanted vegetables from Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre every Thursday morning. This involves building relationships with the vendors and behaving in a respectful manner, so as to not disrupt business. Of the 20 volunteers who show up each week, about half are usually regulars. The vegetables collected are distributed primarily to soup kitchens and charity organisations.
They also rescue cooked food. With cooked food though, businesses often do not want to take on the liability in case anyone gets sick. To counter this, food rescuers do not reveal where they get the food from, and also take extra precautions to handle the food safely.
The group empowers individuals to decide for themselves whether the rescued food is safe to consume. This involves a shift in mindset for most Singaporeans – the idea of eating leftovers, most of which are not “supermarket quality”, does not appeal to everyone, especially since food in Singapore is relatively cheap. Food rescuers say that the best way to tell if something is still good is by trusting your senses and using good old common sense.
“If something looks bad, you just cut away the bad part. You’re rescuing the food already,” says Wan Lee. “But if you feel anything is a bit off, then don’t eat it. Because your health is most important.”
While helping the needy is part of the work of the group – it works mainly with the charity organisation Free Food for All – its main priority is to rescue the food itself. Food that cannot be eaten can also be used in other ways, such as for composting or to feed animals.
Says Wan Lee: “We believe anyone can be a food rescuer. It doesn’t matter if you’re needy, not needy, you’re rich or poor, if you consume the food, you’re already doing your part.”
To know more about their work, visit its FB @SG Food Rescue and www.sgfoodrescue.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/how-you-can-help