SINGAPORE: Despite the prosperous façade of the nation, food insecurity is a persistent concern. To define, food insecurity is when a household is unsure or lacks the resources to access adequate, quality food for a healthy existence.
Though often overlooked in a developed country like Singapore, this issue finds a stark manifestation in the heart-wrenching sight of individuals sifting through trash for sustenance.
The organization, Food from the Heart, has long recognized this issue, dedicating over two decades to providing steady, sustainable food support for the underprivileged.
Yet, data continues to reflect a pressing concern. A study commissioned by The Food Bank Singapore (FBSG) in 2020 highlighted that 10.4% of the surveyed households, out of 1,200, faced food insecurity in the year prior to the survey.
Often, our attention is drawn to the elderly as the primary vulnerable group. Their struggles aren’t just about dwindling savings or income, but are compounded by health issues, limited mobility, and the challenge of self-sustenance.
But it’s not just the elderly. There are hidden demographics, not easily noticeable, yet equally grappling with food scarcity.
This backdrop sets the stage for a recent video that emerged on the Singapore Incidents Facebook page dated 3 October. The clip portrays a woman collecting discarded bread from a bin, purportedly dumped by a local bakery.
The person recording the video seemed taken aback, expressing surprise that such instances of people gathering leftover food from trash bins still occur in Singapore.
They questioned whether the woman was salvaging these discarded bread items for the purpose of survival.
Inquiring, “She picks all the left over from the bin thrown from the bread shop to survive?” and including the hashtag #akumasihberuntung, the person’s video commentary has prompted a wave of sympathy among online viewers.
They pondered the circumstances that may have led the woman to collect leftover food for her sustenance.
However, several comments on the video offered support for the woman, advising against making hasty judgments about her lifestyle, irrespective of her underlying motivations.
They emphasized the need to refrain from making assumptions about her situation solely based on the video, as it’s possible she might be collecting the leftovers to feed pigeons or her pets, particularly given that the discarded food appeared to be in good condition.
Another viewpoint suggested that she could be practising freeganism, as she was gathering discarded food that remained safe for consumption, thus sparking further discourse on this unique lifestyle choice.
Freeganism: Reducing waste and saving money while giving items a second life
Freeganism is a lifestyle based on the principle of collecting items others don’t want and repurposing them for personal needs.
The core of this lifestyle is to reduce waste and minimize the need for purchasing new items.
Xin Yi and Daniel, committed freegans in Singapore, debunked the misunderstandings that label freegans as individuals who rummage through dumpsters or adopt unclean lifestyles in a feature published by a Singaporean media source, The Pride.
They emphasized that this lifestyle helps save both money and the environment.
Xin Yi, a 34-year-old design consultant, shared her experience of discovering freeganism in 2019 and her commitment to sustainability by avoiding single-use packaging and reducing waste.
She and other freegans make an effort to consume leftover food, significantly reducing waste.
“One misconception is that freegan activities such as dumpster diving is ‘dirty’ or that items thrown away are in poor condition, but in reality, Singaporeans often throw away items that can still be consumed or used, or are sometimes even brand new,” she said.
Meanwhile, Daniel Tay, a prominent figure in the freegan community, highlighted the value of rescuing discarded items, which has led to substantial cost savings.
“It’s amazing the amount of stuff that gets thrown away in perfect working condition. You really have to experience firsthand the kind of things we get from what people throw away, before judging what we do as scavenging,” Daniel said.
He shared that embracing a freegan lifestyle led to a substantial reduction in his monthly expenses, bringing them down from $2,000 to approximately $300.
He eats mainly rescued food, which occasionally means he covers his entire month’s meals without spending a dime.
Xin Yi subscribes to the same mindset.
“We seek to reduce the amount of waste produced and extend the lifespan of products that we use,” Xin Yi shares.
“We are ultimately giving a second life to things other people throw away.”
Instead of creating demand for new products, her suggestion is to salvage items that would otherwise end up in the trash, thereby reducing packaging waste as well.
On the other hand, it
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