Her idea helps F&B outfits during the pandemic while reducing food waste

The plight of her friends in the F&B industry greatly affected by the pandemic inspired Jennifer Widjaja to set up Just Dabao.
PHOTO: Just Dabao

Singapore might be a food paradise but with it comes a largely unnoticed and often ignored food wastage problem.

Your favourite bakeries, cafes and restaurants do not always manage to sell all the food they've prepared, and, unfortunately, it gets discarded at the end of the day.

The stats are pretty gnarly: 700 million kilograms of food are wasted every year (that's the equivalent of 51,000 double decker buses!), nine million of which could have easily been avoided. Can you imagine the amount of nasi lemak or laksa that amounts to?

For local entrepreneur Jennifer Widjaja, it is an issue that hits close to home. The 29-year-old had many friends in the food and beverage industry, and when the pandemic occurred, it was the tipping point point that inspired her to take action.

Just Dabao, a social enterprise and green marketplace which Jennifer co-founded, lets you dabao delicious and fresh surplus food and drinks from various retailers and producers at excellent value. Think of it as a food redistribution platform.

You get to reduce your carbon footprint, and save time and money while businesses can repurpose their surplus food instead of throwing them away. Win-win liao.

We speak to Jennifer about her first encounter with food wastage and her own personal tips for going green.

How did your passion for sustainable living first start?

To be honest, there wasn't an "aha" moment. It was always something that I wanted to pursue. However, what drove me to take action was when my friends in the F&B industry were greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and hence, it got me working towards a simple and scalable solution.

How big of an issue is food waste and how does Just Dabao aim to provide solutions?

During the Circuit Breaker period in 2020, I could not bear to see some of my favourite eatery "uncles" close shop. I was truly heartbroken as their years of hard work and excitement turned to dust due to something beyond their control.

The ones that remained are now economically burdened. The F&B industry was especially hit hard — the sector reported a year-on-year loss of almost 30 per cent in Q3 of 2020. So I decided to take action and help them!

My focus was on the F&B sector and researching ways to help out. Eventually, I came across the food-waste problem in Singapore.

From the National Environmental Agency's website, I understood that Singapore generates about 700 million kg of food waste and only less than 15 per cent is recycled. Food waste is a logistics issue.

I knew that if I could help address the food-waste problem, it could not only help the eateries, but also the environment.

The Shiok Bag is a brilliant idea! How did you strategise which businesses to target, and how did you convince them to be part of your green marketplace?

The Shiok Bag created by Just Dabao consists of repackaged unsold food from F&B shops that is sufficient for one person. PHOTO: Just Dabao

We reached out to F&B merchants who had a high chance of having some surplus food during the day. Most F&B merchants are already aware and would be sad about throwing away their food at the end of the day as they are figuratively throwing their money away.

Just Dabao's unique business model helps generate a new revenue stream for sellers. Most people are also keen on partnering with us due to the fact that we are helping to reduce carbon emissions as well.

On a personal level, what tips can you share for someone who wants to start practising a more sustainable lifestyle?

To tackle any challenge, it has to be broken down into small manageable pieces. So don't be afraid to start small. Knowingly or unknowingly, your consistent small acts will create a butterfly effect and motivate more people to join forces.

For more information on Just Dabao, click here.

This article was first published in Wonderwall.sg.