Buy a Meal, Give a Meal

What exactly is BAMGAM? No, it’s not quite childhood blabber but local food truck Kerbside Gourmet’s business philosophy.

Short for “Buy a Meal, Give a Meal”, the endeavour is far from child’s play. Each quarter, the truck dishes out over 300 to 400 hot meals to the underprivileged around Singapore, each one freshly prepared on the food truck by professional chefs who volunteer time and energy.

“The food truck was started (in 2013) with two goals – to maximise fun not profit, and to offer healthier street food with less carbs and more protein. We conduct commercial activities to raise money to fund our social cause, because we believe that we need to be able to stand on our own four wheels before being able to help others,” explains Kerbside Gourmet’s founder Ee Poh Luan, who works with the South Central Community Family Service Centre to identify the needy families in the Lower Delta area to feed.

The truck also regularly serves as a courier, collecting excess food from a reputable hotel and sending them to the families on a twice-weekly basis (this has been going on for the past two years), and this has helped to channel over three tonnes of wet food that would otherwise have been trashed.

“A social enterprise has to be genuine and sincere for it to be sustainable. There is no life to efforts done just to portray a certain image,” she says. “I am motivated by what Mother Teresa said: If you can’t feed a thousand, feed a hundred. If you can’t feed a hundred, feed 10. That has to be the most encouraging advice for me to start at whatever level I’m capable of sustaining.”



Snack and Give Back

Doing good doesn’t always require grand gestures. Sometimes, you can give back simply by having a snack – that is the belief of bankers-turned-Boxgreen founders Andrew Lim, Walter Oh and Wong Weng Fai.

For every box of snacks purchased from the healthy snacks subscription service, Boxgreen donates an equivalent of a meal to the less privileged. In 2016 alone, the two-year-old start-up has sponsored over 13,300 meals via local soup kitchen, Willing Hearts.

The team also volunteer at Willing Hearts regularly as part of their team-bonding efforts, helping to cook, pack and personally deliver the meals to the less fortunate, so “we are pretty comfortable knowing that every $1 put into Willing Hearts actually gets turned into a proper meal and benefits the person in need”, says Oh. “We’ve seen Willing Hearts grow from a small kitchen delivering 200 over meals to a facility serving over 5,000 meals a day.”

Giving back to society was a core commitment they wanted even before they started the business. Oh explains: “We wanted to focus on people who can’t even take care of their basic three meals, let alone snack nutritiously.” And this care extends to the environment too: Boxgreen uses sustainable packaging such as craft boxes, which are triple the price of regular boxes but “the cardboard ties in with our products being more natural, and customers are reminded to recycle, with friendly illustrations at the back of the box”.

Besides expanding the business to Malaysia in June 2016, the trio have also recently launched a Boxgreen-branded healthy snacks vending machine at the OUE Link, in keeping with their mission to make healthy snacking accessible to all.


Silent Yet Dignified

Hush is Singapore’s – and possibly the world’s – first Silent Tea Bar, a social movement designed to merge the worlds of the hearing and the hearing-impaired and encourage social inclusion through shared experience. All via a cup of tea.

“For Hush, the social cause is not an afterthought or a nice-to-have, and most definitely, it’s not for the sympathy dollars. We created Hush (in 2014), with the hearing-impaired at the core of our service experience,” explains founder Anthea Ong.

Hush empowers the hearing-impaired with dignified employment opportunities: they are employed as “tea-ristas” who guide participants through a tea appreciation session conducted via sign language and gestures in absolute silence.

“We want to challenge the notion of disability by inviting people to rethink the ability of the hearing-impaired,” Ong explains. Since its founding in 2014, the outfit’s corporate arm, Hush@Work, has conducted tea sessions for over 1,800 employees in 43 organisations including Google, Credit Suisse, DBS and the US Embassy.

Ong also spun off Hush@Community in December 2016, a bimonthly event bringing together business leaders and everyday heroes such as migrant workers, cleaners, and single mothers to share a space in silence and solidarity.

Upcoming plans include the launch of Hush in a Box, a take-home kit ​gift set, and #Young&Hush, a Hush experience customised to promote mental wellness and inclusion in schools. “Businesses exist because of the communities they operate in. If they want meaningful sustainability, they must ensure the community they operate in continues to thrive,” adds Ong.


(RELATED: Charity Begins At Home)