One evening, not too long ago, Redditor andyleong193 and his friend were at a food court enjoying their dinner when an elderly woman suddenly joined them at their table.
Initially thinking nothing of it, andyleong193 continued with his meal, as he wrote in his Reddit post: “At first I thought she was just here to have dinner like any other person would, but we noticed that she kept looking at our food.”
The elderly woman, however, did not stop looking in the direction of andyleong193 and his friend, even after they had finished their food.
Noticing this, andyleong193 said he nodded and smiled at the elderly woman to acknowledge her presence. He added: “She…asked if she could have my leftover soup. I felt so sad that an elderly person like her, (who is) probably around her 80s, was basically scraping for food.”
Andyleong193 offered to buy her a meal instead. “I told her that I could buy her something to eat if she wanted, but she said she had no money and couldn’t pay for it. I reiterated that I would pay for it but she still said no.”
Eventually, she asked him for two dollars for food, which andyleong193 willingly gave.
While he was able to do his part in helping the woman this time round, he wondered if there were better ways to help other similar vulnerable members of society, as he asked: “Redditors of Singapore, is there anything we can do for these elderly who can’t even afford to have a warm meal?”
Netizens share ways to help Singapore’s hungry
Many of the Redditors who responded to andyleong193’s question said they would opt to purchase a hearty meal for these vulnerable members of society.
One user, jerrylorum, wrote that a similar incident happened to him last month at the Toa Payoh Lorong 8 market.
“An elderly lady came by my table to ask for money,” he wrote. “I asked her to order anything she wanted instead, and she asked for popiah.”
Jerrylorum added that he then approached the popiah stall’s proprietor and offered to pay for the woman’s order. “She got two rolls of popiah, sat down at the table next to me, and ate it all,” he recalled.
Another Redditor, 4juice, replied that he would have allowed the woman to have his leftovers if she wanted them, as he wouldn’t want to reject her request.
He added: “I’d then buy her food, and give her some money to buy more food for later.”
Other users offered suggestions for long-term help
Several Redditors, however, realised that short-term solutions weren’t the answer, as the elderly would soon be overcome with pangs of hunger again.
Redditor nobody_knows_Im_dog wrote: “The leftover soup will only relieve her hunger for a while.”
He added that in the future, one who comes across vulnerable members of society can first offer them a plate of cai png (mixed vegetable rice) with meat and vegetables, as those who haven’t eaten in a while may be lacking in nutrients.
He also suggested buying them packets of cookies – and in particular, those that had peanut butter filling.
He explained: “Peanut butter is a source of protein and is tasty. Refrain from buying bread as it doesn’t last long and the elderly won’t hesitate to eat mouldy bread.”
He added that one can also direct such members of society to the different food handout programmes in the country. “Certain areas in Singapore have their own programmes, so you might have to research for her and help her sign up,” he said.
Reddit user hanamihoshi was quick to agree. Hanamihoshi explained that, as many group representation constituencies (GRCs) have their own meal programmes to help the poor, one could direct a vulnerable member of society to their Member of Parliament (MP) to request for assistance – this could include food vouchers, or a referral to a long-term food programme.
Hanamihoshi wrote: “A number of religious organisations also have free meals for all regardless of race and religion. In fact, just a while back, I joined a food rescue group for Krishna’s Kitchen, which is a soup kitchen in Little India where anyone is welcome to go (and) eat for free, and then donate what they can.”
Better to err on the side of being charitable
There were several users, however, who were a little more cynical. “Whenever someone rejects help and asks for money, I believe they’re scammers,” one such user wrote.
However, others were quick to jump to the defence of the woman, pointing out that it’s unlikely a scammer would ask for someone’s leftovers.
Netizens were also quick to offer the view that it might be better to run the risk of being scammed, than to actually deny a needy person a few dollars.
Redditor Prata2pcs, wrote: “I’d rather get scammed than deny a legitimate 80-year-old’s request of two dollars.” He added that when someone, especially a senior, approaches one for assistance, it’s better to just give with compassion.
Redditor gydot, agreed, writing: “If the dollar sum is small, then I’d err on the side of charitable.”