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A Recipe for Empowerment

Children living in rental flats could redeem free meals from local hawkers through MWS’ Kopi Kids programme to address food insecurity

Food is sustenance, but it is also more than that. It plays a pivotal role in shaping and connecting our lives. Whether tackling issues like food insecurity or using communal eating to foster social bonding, MWS utilises food to empower lives through community-driven initiatives.

Breaking bad eating habits

Even in the foodie paradise of Singapore, the surprising reality is that some go hungry. About 1 in 4 clients who approach MWS Family Service Centre – Yishun (YFSC) seek urgent food assistance. 

Recognising the adverse effects of food insecurity, last year, MWS YFSC piloted Kopi Kids, a 3-month programme to make healthy food options more accessible to children living in rental flats. The initiative enabled the children to redeem free meals from local hawkers, while growing vegetables in a partnership with Ground-up Initiative to give back to those hawkers. 

Kopi Kids sought to raise awareness of food insecurity and encouraged patrons of participating stalls to pay it forward by sponsoring a child’s meal. Beyond easing hunger, the initiative aimed to cultivate healthy eating habits and break the cycle of dependence on processed food items. 

It also strengthened community bonds through stakeholder partnership and educated the children about food sources and sustainability. 

Kopi Kids aimed to promote healthy eating and reduce reliance on processed foods

Besides food insecurity, a lack of nutrition knowledge is also linked to poor dietary habits and health. At MWS Girls’ Residence (GR), many of the youth residents, with a history of chronic neglect and abuse, have low nutrition literacy and sustained unhealthy eating habits. 

Since December 2022, MWS GR has teamed up with Mycelium Catering, the institutional catering arm of Food Inc, to provide balanced and nutritious meals for the residents, as part of educating them about nutrition and eating well. Through this, the residents discovered that wholesome food can also be tasty, and embraced healthier eating habits. 

Emmanuel Stroobant, Chef & Co-Owner of Food Inc, said that the company’s commitment aligns with his vision for children and youths to have healthy nutrition. Stressing the crucial impact of early nutrition on both brain and physical development, he said, “A balanced diet boosts concentration, prevents sluggishness and increases learning potential. It promotes optimal growth and development and prevents health problems in adulthood. It can also improve a child or youth’s mood and prevent emotional problems linked to unhealthy eating.”

“A balanced diet boosts concentration, prevents sluggishness and increases learning potential. It promotes optimal growth and development and prevents health problems in adulthood," says Emmanuel Stroobant, Chef & Co-Owner of Food Inc

Breaking bread, building bonds

This commitment to improving food quality for our clients extends to MWS Bethany Nursing Home (BNH) – Choa Chu Kang. Here, residents who are estranged from their families seldom have the chance to enjoy anything beyond the daily offerings from the Central Kitchen. 

But for the past year, residents have been enjoying a special monthly meal sponsored by Blue Hill Capital, headed by Ms Selina Chin. “Thanks to the donation, we can offer special treats like roasted duck, mackerel fish, beef, lamb and crab,” shared Chef Ho Limg Neng, Manager of the Central Kitchen at MWS BNH. “The residents and staff love these special meals and often ask for more. This shows that special treats or gestures have a mood-lifting effect and contribute to overall well-being.” 

Recognising how communal eating can enhance social bonds and well-being, special celebrations in conjunction with occasions like Valentine’s Day are sometimes organised around these monthly meals to encourage bonding among residents. 

A couple resident at MWS Bethany Nursing Home – Choa Chu Kang enjoying a special Valentine's Day meal in February 2023

In a broader initiative last year, MWS partnered with The Methodist Church in Singapore to launch Eat Share Connect, a communal dining outreach that urged local Methodists to connect with socially isolated seniors and families in need over a meal. The goal was to cultivate meaningful connections through shared meals, while fostering inclusivity in the community. 

These food-focused initiatives would not have been possible without the support of our community partners. We are thankful for their belief in our cause, and anticipate collaborating with even more partners to empower families and individuals to have a better quality of life.

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Read by Impact Area

Care for the Chronically Ill, Frail and Destitute

Empower Families in Distress

Engage the Socially Isolated

Assisting Disadvantaged Children

Rehabilitate At-Risk Youth

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