Community gardens help feed the needy

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Mr Khaw Boon Wan (right) with volunteer gardeners yesterday at Marsiling Primary School, where 250 families received produce. Photo: ST

Hoe Pei Shan
The Straits Times
April 13, 2015

SINGAPORE’S densely populated urban landscape might not be an obvious place to plant, grow and harvest vegetables.

Yet, 15 community gardens in Sembawang have produced 760kg of vegetables – including chye sim, cabbage, kai lan and radish – which will help feed many needy families in that area.

The SG50 Green Harvest initiative was started in February and has far exceeded its target of 500kg of produce, said Minister of National Development Khaw Boon Wan, who addressed dozens of volunteer gardeners and beneficiaries at a reception yesterday.

Under the guidance of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, 140 community gardeners tending 15 gardens across Sembawang – as well as several students from Marsiling Primary School and Woodlands Secondary School – worked together to plant, grow and gather the produce.

Some 250 families each received about 1kg of vegetables, along with $50 worth of groceries.

Residents of Man Fut Tong Nursing Home were also among those from welfare organisations who benefited from the community gardening efforts.

Beyond helping to feed the less fortunate, community gardening fosters the “kampung spirit” and healthy living, said Mr Khaw, noting that several of the gardeners were active seniors.

Madam Sai Chai Moi, a 63-year-old grandmother, was among them.

Deaf and mute since she was a child, she shied away from people, and after she was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, she rarely went out.

Her life has changed significantly since she took up community gardening, said her daughter, Mrs Lily Ng, who noted that she is more lively now and feeling healthier.

Similarly, 69-year-old retiree Salbiah Osman said the gardens had given her a new purpose in life: “I didn’t want to just sit at home doing nothing, so I started going to the community garden almost 10 years ago.”

She can spend up to six hours a day engrossed in her plants, and needs an alarm to remind her to take a lunch break. She said it is very satisfying to see the fruit of her labour go towards a good cause, and how gardening can strengthen community bonds.

She added: “We have gardeners from all kinds of background, and when neighbours see us, they share recipes and personal problems, and we help one another out.”

This article was first published on April 13, 2015. 
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