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“Try this, try this,” she said, doling grapes into my palm.

As I bit into the fruit, it burst with juicy sweetness.

However, my delight quickly turned sour when I realised: These grapes were meant to be thrown away.

Food waste continues to be a pressing issue in Singapore. We talk about sustainability and strive towards a Zero Waste Nation in a greener future. But what good is talking about it if we don’t walk our talk?

In 2022, Singapore disposed of 6.67 million tons of food waste, a staggering amount — enough to fill 13,000 Olympic swimming pools! Worse, much of this produce is tossed because they are “ugly”, resulting in perfectly edible food being wasted.

Fortunately, there are food rescue groups in Singapore that see the beauty in our “ugly” fruits and vegetables: One such organisation is Fridge Restock Community SG (FRC).

Founded in 2020, FRC is a ground-up initiative that salvages and donates fresh produce to locations around Singapore. The produce is distributed to 19 community refrigerators found at various HDB void decks.

Founder Daniel Yap, 46, who runs a grocery mart in Little India, said that community is at the heart of what he does.

“I started this initiative to reduce food waste because I feel that sustainability should be everyone’s responsibility,” Daniel told The Pride,

“And at the same time, we can also help any residents in need, whether they are lower-income families or families from the ‘sandwiched’ generation.”

Every week, FRC helps more than 800 families ease their weekly grocery costs by supplementing their diet with free fresh produce.

But spreading smiles around the island is not an easy job. It’s a tiring, sweaty and demanding job that requires sorting food and hauling boxes, often in the sweltering heat.

Yet, the volunteers do it with enthusiasm.

Visiting the home of FRC

Volunteers sorting out produce at the vegetable sector of Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre. Image source: Jayden Tan

It was 10am on a Wednesday morning at the vegetable sector at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, Singapore’s largest wholesale centre. Most supermarkets get their fresh produce here and it’s also where much edible food is discarded.

I’m there to see FRC volunteers in action and to chip in a little as well. Volunteers (they were short-handed that day, I found out later) visit the vendors on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, rescuing blemished fruits and vegetables from being thrown away.

When I arrived, a small group of volunteers was already sorting through boxes of produce, packing vegetables from cardboard boxes into plastic crates. The “mission rescuers”, as they are called, were working in a narrow loading area under the sun while passers-by and forklift trucks trundled past.

From left: Mission rescuers Barbara (left) and Jade (right) heading to collect more produce, and Jade showing me how fresh the “ugly” produce are. Image source: Jayden Tan

While some sorted through the heaps of vegetables, a pair of volunteers went out to collect more produce. Jade Wong, in her 40s and Barbara Nicaud, in her 50s, met while volunteering at FRC in 2020, and they have become close since. Jade would often pick Barbara to go together to FRC events.

It was around 12pm as the ladies weaved their way around the market, pushing a long trolley with FRC aprons cinched around their waists. I chatted with them as they went from stall to stall, loading cartons of fruits onto the trolley.

As we reached our first stop, they chimed out: “Hello Uncle Henry!” to a smiling fruit wholesaler as he handed them a carton of fruit.

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He’s their favourite vendor, Jade whispered to me.

Nowadays, led by kind people like Uncle Henry, many vendors would leave aside produce for FRC volunteers instead of throwing them away.

But it wasn’t always like this.

“In the past, not many vendors were accepting of us. They were hesitant because they don’t know what we’re going to use it for. But it’s all about building rapport,” Jade explained.

It took some convincing and persistence over the years, Daniel told me, but it finally paid off. Now, FRC has more than 30 willing wholesalers who regularly help out.

“We showed them our Facebook page and explained to them our intentions, like how we make full use of all these fresh products and how we distribute them to the residents,” he explained.

Giving back to the community and building another

FRC “mission driver”, Daniel Tay, unloading rescued yoghurt from the van. Image source: Jayden Tan

But rescuing the food is only half the journey.

The efforts of Jade, Barbara and the rest are matched by “mission drivers” like Daniel Tay, 43.

Daniel and his fellow drivers deliver the rescued produce to community refrigerators maintained by 13 partners acoss Singapore.

Daniel co-founded SG Food Rescue in 2018, another ground-up initiative dedicated to reducing food waste.

“I ran a financial planning business from 2015 to 2019, but I retired because I didn’t want to worry about money anymore. I spent a lot of time and mental energy… and I realised it wasn’t worth it,” Daniel tells me matter-of-factly.

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Daniel stepped down from his role at SG Food Rescue in 2020 but he continues to serve and build friendships within other like-minded communities like FRC.

“When I was working full-time, I didn’t have that many friends or a community to call my own… but here, we share similar values and we’ve grown close,” says Daniel.

United by a common passion to prevent food waste, the FRC community of more than 100 volunteers (about 30 are regulars, Daniel tells me) is like a close-knit family.

“We do this because we love ‘boss’ (Daniel),” jokes Barbara.

Leaving nothing to waste

Volunteers taking home some produce before it is sent out. Image source: Jayden Tan

At Pasir Panjang, it was 12:30pm, just half an hour before the boxes were loaded into FRC trucks for delivery. But not everything got sent away — some food items were left aside for the volunteers.

At the end of each shift, volunteers get 15 minutes to bag as much produce as they want. From tiny brussels sprouts to jumbo watermelons, there is a colourful variety of produce on display, and the volunteers go about it with good cheer and enthusiasm much like contestants during a MasterChef grocery run,

“As a mum, we don’t let anything go to waste because we work so hard to get food on the table,” Barbara said while inspecting some vegetables.

“For a farmer to grow it, for shippers to ship it, for logistics to move it, only to have it dumped? It’s just a waste and that’s why we do this.”

FRC volunteers handing out rescued produce to beneficiaries at Tamah Jurong Community Club. Image source: FRC

Barbara is a mum of three and a grandmother of four. She has been rescuing food since 2001, and before joining FRC in 2020, she was a volunteer at the Little India Veggie Collection, an initiative run by SG Food Rescue.

When Barbara is not busy volunteering, the veteran chef with 34 years experience is in her kitchen.

“As a chef, I get to try new ingredients (from the rescued items) that I would not normally buy because I’m not sure what it is or how to use it… but they’re kind of fun to play with when I’m cooking,” she said.

Barbara’s homemade pumpkin soup with kale pesto made from rescued vegetables. Image source: Barbara Nicaud

Barbara hosts a weekly dinner with friends at her house, using rescued ingredients to whip up delicious meals.

“My friends know everything is rescued and everybody takes stuff home, so their friends and family can see that the food is still really good,” she explained. “At the end of the day, my passion is to feed people.”

And she’s not alone in that passion. I saw that in all the volunteers I met at FRC, who work tirelessly to reduce food wastage and feed needy families all around Singapore.

If you have the same enthusiasm for sustainability and reducing waste, find out more on the community and sign up as a volunteer rescuer or driver at FRC here.

For more enquiries, contact FRC at 9831 8318 or email them at

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