'Take what you need': Group of friends set up free food pantry in Yishun for the needy

PHOTO: Facebook/TheJumaatInitiatives

With an increase in retrenchments and pay cuts in Singapore due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many are finding it harder to put food on the table.

However, some residents along Yishun Street 51 have noticed the recent appearance of an unattended shelf filled with dry groceries at the foot of Block 513C. Two laminated sheets of paper pasted above it read: "Suspended groceries. Take what you need, give what you can."

The cupboard was placed there by a group of three friends as part of The Jumaat Initiative which hopes to provide an emergency source of food to those in need as a way to give back to the community.

PHOTO: Facebook/TheJumaatInitiatives

Taking inspiration from Elewsmart — a mart in Malaysia offering groceries at low prices — that also has a free food bank, the trio sourced a shelf off Carousell's free market and filled it with groceries such as rice, sugar, canned food, biscuits, cooking oil and more.

Speaking with AsiaOne, one of the organisers, Hazwan Tahir, shared: "We realised that those who are most affected [by the pandemic] are from the lower-income families." 

Besides families whose sole breadwinners facing retrenchment and pay-cuts, he noted that the elderly who are living alone and foreign workers are similarly affected. 

They also chose Yishun as it was close to where they lived.

As of now, the trio has yet to decide if they would expand the initiative to other locations, having given themselves a target of one month to see if it would take off.

Since the shelf's appearance on Sept 26, several people have approached the organisers offering to sponsor some of the groceries. The group also shared on Facebook how some kind strangers had filled the shelf with more food on their own too.

Those who would like to contribute to the cause could contact them through the Facebook group TheJumaatInitiatives, Hazwan added.

The trio isn't alone in their quest to provide food for the needy. Another group, Unmanned Free Food Pantry, is organised by Ken Yeo and his family with a focus on helping those living in low-income neighbourhoods such as Jalan Kukoh, York Hill and Spooner Road.