Sunday, 27 Sep 2020

New app in the works to tackle food wastage and food insecurity

SINGAPORE – An app expected to be rolled out in the last quarter of 2020 plans to match donors with food to give away to the organisations here that help provide food to those in need.

The virtual food banking app, a partnership between DBS Bank and food charity The Food Bank Singapore, hopes to tackle the twin issues of food wastage and food insecurity here, said the bank in a statement on Thursday (June 4).

The app will allow for donors to share the type and quantity of food they have in real-time, which food support organisations can view on the platform.

This will hopefully facilitate more relevant food matching, ensuring those in need receive the right amount and types of food they need, reducing food waste, said DBS, which is financing the development of the app that started early this year.

A 2019 United Nations report on global food security and nutrition found that 4.1 per cent of Singapore’s population faces moderate to severe food insecurity, with people experiencing hunger and issues with obtaining food or having to compromise on quality or quantity of food consumed.

Most Singaporeans who are food insecure such as the elderly or low-income families facing long-term unemployment or health issues receive support from more than 100 food support organisations here, said DBS.

It hopes the app will address current gaps in the support system.

For instance, a large amount of food goes to beneficiaries in rental flats. This may be because ground-up initiatives and well-intentioned donors may assume those in rented flats are most in need and channel donations there. This may cause duplication in food donations to these recipients, resulting in food left past its shelf life and being eventually thrown away.

The app hopes to firstly remove duplication at the non-governmental organisation level, and later review the needs on the ground, said The Food Bank Singapore’s co-founder Nichol Ng.

Also, some households with large families and who need help putting the next meal on the table may fall through the cracks as they do not meet the criteria for housing type or household income, added the bank. The app aims to increase efficiency and speed of the organisations helping them, so they can then address the needs of this group.

By connecting the various groups – donors, social service agencies, food support organisations and logistics providers – the app hopes to streamline the food donation process with a single platform.

The app will also collect data for analysis so the organisations can better understand the needs on the ground.

Trials for the platform begin this week, with the Food Bank inviting more than 300 charities in its network to come onboard.

The announcement of this platform comes after a multi-agency work group was set up late last year to tackle food wastage and food insecurity here, looking at the possible links between the two issues and ways to address them.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said he was heartened by the “innovative collaboration” by DBS and Food Bank.

“This is a timely initiative, which could enhance the way we organise food aid and coordinate donations as we tide through Covid-19 together,” he added.

DBS Singapore country head Shee Tse Koon said: “With the virtual food banking app, we will have greater visibility of the support gaps in Singapore, and we hope more donors will be encouraged to come forth and make the commitment with us to help put food on the table for those in need.”

Both DBS and Food Bank are working with TreeDots, a social enterprise linking businesses with unsold inventory to potential buyers, to get more on board. The bank is also currently engaging its corporate clients to join the platform as pilot donors.

Food Bank co-founder Nichol Ng said that without big data, it is tougher to address the gaps in feeding programmes across agencies.

Digitalisation will give Food Bank, which has a lean team of seven full-time staff, efficiency gains, she said, adding: “The app will be a great starting point to test a circular ecosystem where donors, beneficiary organisations and logistics providers can be looped onto one platform to better facilitate food aid.”

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