View Post

“People Give, Just Take And Eat”: Food Insecurity and Food Aid in a Public Rental Neighbourhood in Singapore

In COVID-19, Reports, Resources by Stephanie Chok

“Food is just a method to survive … day by day. … If you are talking to me about nutrition … I don’t think we people [in this neighbourhood] get all that. … [it] is going to cost us a lot. For us, in … this small community, we are not rich people. We are just blessed to have food, that is all.” (Interview, Rental flat resident)

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to increases in demand for food and financial assistance. Motivated by a mounting concern with the increased demands for food aid, Beyond Social Services embarked on a study to better understand the nature of food insecurity and food aid in a public rental neighbourhood.

Food insecurity, which occurs when persons have limited or unstable access to safe and nutritious foods in socially acceptable ways, is inextricably linked to economic inequality. In current contexts, the socially acceptable way of obtaining food is through commercial transactions: people shop for food in supermarkets, or purchase meals at food and beverage outlets. Depending on food aid provided by charities is a system relegated to persons marked financially disadvantaged—in Singapore, many organisations apply a means-test or use housing as a proxy to determine eligibility for food aid.

This qualitative study was conducted between July and December 2020, involving semi-structured interviews with 54 public rental flat residents, four stakeholders involved in providing food aid, and a focus group involving eight members.

Interviewees shared their decision-making processes when it came to the acquiring, preparation and consuming of food on a daily basis—they talked about what they ate, and why they didn’t; they spoke of sharing, of sustenance and, often, of deprivation. As parents, they were resolute that their children’s food needs took precedence over their own, and their accounts amplified the tradeoffs many grappled with in trying to balance tight budgets and feeding their families adequately.

The implications of prolonged and endemic food insecurity on residents remain a grave concern: food insecurity is a serious public health issue and is linked to increased mental stress and the development of chronic health conditions.

The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated food insecurity. Quality of life, across all domains, decreases as food insecurity increases: there is also a mutually reinforcing dynamic between these deteriorating conditions and food insecurity. Food insecurity in communities experiencing entrenched disadvantage can also extend beyond the individual and households to affect social networks and erode capacities for self and community organising.

The persistence (and growth) in food insecurity demands attention to fundamental questions about inequalities in our food ecosystems and the political commitment required to deal with the social determinants of food insecurity. Such efforts will certainly include food aid, but must extend beyond charitable food responses to allow for multi-scalar, collaborative action that shifts us, collectively, towards more socially just and environmentally sustainable food systems. Food insecurity in affluent societies poses important ethical and political questions that demand our attention and scrutiny: if we recognise the human right to food, access to adequate food should no longer be treated as a gift or act of benevolence, but a fundamental right and statutory obligation.

Read our report here now.

View Post

COVID-19 & Deepening Inequalities in Singapore

In Facts and Figures, Media mentions, Resources by Stephanie Chok

Beyond’s report on  the COVID-19 situation through the eyes of those who had applied for our COVID-19 Family Assistance Fund, received many favorable responses from the media. Listed below, are links to the main articles which you can read

View Post

MIND THE CHASM: COVID-19 & Deepening Inequalities in Singapore

In Reports, Resources by Stephanie Chok

It has been more than a year since COVID-19 landed on our shores and we have adapted to stay relevant; responding quickly and helping families who have been badly hit recover from its impact. Beyond has worked on a report on the COVID-19 situation through the eyes of those who had applied for our COVID-19 Family Assistance Fund. Currently, we are sharing the finding of this report with these families and in discussions with them to understand how we may work together to provide stability for their families and to navigate a post-COVID-19 world.

Click here to view the full report

View Post

Household Incomes, Arrears, and Impacts on Employment: Preliminary Findings from Beyond Social Services’s COVID-19 Study

In COVID-19, Employment, Facts and Figures, Reports, Resources by Stephanie Chok

In March 2020, shortly before the circuit breaker was announced, Beyond Social Services launched its COVID- 19 Family Assistance Fund. Since then, Beyond has provided financial assistance to over 1900 families. We have also undertaken a study to examine the economic circumstances of these families, and share some preliminary findings here.

By Stephanie Chok

Click here to read the full article

View Post

Youth United Impact Study- Beyond Social Services

In Facts and Figures, Reports, Resources by Vairam

In Singapore today, 26.65% of households have incomes less than half of the national median income. Families in 276 public rental housing blocks across Singapore are also getting by on a gross monthly income of $1,500 and below – just enough to meet their daily basic needs.

In helping these families, non-profit organisation, Beyond Social Services (Beyond) remains true to its conviction that the community plays a key role. Over the past eight years, Beyond has been creating their own community development model, which takes on a whole-of-society approach and emulates key practices from around the world.

To measure the impact of their work thus far, Beyond embarked on a study with Blackbox Research to evaluate the effectiveness of its approach and the efficacy of a community development approach.

Click here for full article 


Evaluation of the Healthy Start Child Development Centre

In Reports, Resources by Stephanie Chok

Author: P. Keerthana

Based on the views of parents whose children attend the Healthy Start Child Development Centre (HSCDC) across two years (2017-2018), this report assesses the effectiveness of the centre’s resources, teaching, and parental engagement. It also suggests innovations to better address the needs of children, parents, and staff.

Click here for the report

View Post

COVID-19: Impacts on Employment & Household Income

In COVID-19, Employment, News & Events, Reports, Resources by Stephanie Chok

By Stephanie Chok, 18 March 2020, BEYOND SOCIAL SERVICES

Almost a month ago, Beyond Social Services started calling members to find out how they have been impacted by the COVID-19 situation. We were especially concerned about impacts on employment and household income. Here’s what we found: 

Low-Paid & Precarious Work 

Members who voiced concerns in the area of employment are disproportionately engaged in low-paid and precarious forms of work. They are part of the gig economy (e.g. Grab driver), are casual, contract, or part-time staff (many in the service sector, e.g. F&B and cleaning), and are involved in seasonal work (e.g. baking/catering). As this TIME article on the coronavirus and inequality among workers pointed out, for many service sector workers, in-person interaction is necessary: if they don’t show up for work, they don’t get paid. ‘Working from home’, a measure available to a select pool of white-collar professionals, is not a viable option. 

Members in these jobs have reported the following impacts: 

  • Reduction in working hours (including overtime hours) and work days, thus leading to a reduction in overall income; 
  • Reduction in demand for services (e.g. catering, Grab rides); 
  • Cancellation of events and contracts (affecting those in events management, for example, and outsourced workers); 
  • Being asked to take (unpaid) leave, including leave of absence (LOA); 
  • Not being paid when on medical leave; 
  • Business temporarily closing (e.g. pasar malam stall, because business is bad); 
  • Pay cuts; 
  • Retrenchment. 

There were also a number who were unemployed and looking for work, but indicated this is more difficult now. Not only are parents affected, older children who take on part-time work to supplement household and personal expenses (e.g. transport to school) have also been affected.

Caregiving & Employment 

It is a stressful time for working parents (in particular mothers), should their children fall sick. One mother was planning to look for employment once her children settled into childcare, but her children have fallen sick consecutively; not only is she unable to look for work now, her husband’s reduced income has been spent on taxi fares bringing the children to and from the hospital and paying for food during long waits at the hospital. At another neighbourhood, a childcare centre where one teacher tested positive for COVID-19 has been closed for 14 days: affected children have been given Leave of Absences (LOA). A mother of one of the children is anxious about having to take two weeks off work at this time, concerned that her employers will dismiss her. 

While there is nothing irregular about children falling sick and parents having to care for them, the current situation is different because childcare centres are now on high alert and bound by much stricter measures. Doctors are issuing longer medical leave for persons displaying respiratory symptoms, and shifting social norms related to being ‘socially responsible’ in the age of COVID-19 mean it is no longer acceptable to attend childcare or work when one displays mild flu-like symptoms.  

Caregiving responsibilites also extend to siblings, parents, and extended family. One member, a 23 year-old who works in a restaurant, is her family’s sole breadwinner: she supports her mother, her brother (who has special needs and requires milk and adult diapers), and her 5 year-old nephew. With the restaurant sector suffering significant drops in revenue, she recently had her pay cut by about 20%. There is an underlying fear that job loss may be imminent if business continues to dive. 


The financial strain families are under is, understandably, causing emotional distress. Several respondents expressed feeling stressed and anxious, and concerned about paying for household expenses (including rent and food, as well as children’s school-related expenses) in the coming months. With the economic impact of COVID-19 expected to last at least a year, there will be cumulative impacts from these reductions in income; this will not only affect families’ current expenditure, it will also compound their arrears, if they have any. While some members are adjusting their spending in order to cope (“still able to tahan for now”, one said), this is a limited strategy. 

Beyond intends to continue monitoring the impact on families, and mobilizing resources to support them. Our crowdfunding site remains open for donations, and both financial and in-kind support is being harnessed and distributed. It is a time for generousity, and public concern towards those in financial hardship has been heartfelt and encouraging. 

It is also, as pointed out by academics Teo You Yenn and Ng Kok Hoe, a time for structural reform:

The current crisis illuminates. It shows us where we most need to intervene to strengthen our social policies: Improving wage protection across all low-paying jobs, shoring up job security in new sectors of the economy, strengthening alternative retirement income sources, enhancing the social assistance regime, and extending the provision of public goods like care services. 

As the authors remind us, “the problems that poorer households faced in normal times have not been suspended because of the crisis. All the things that should have been done to help them then, now must be done”.

What Does “Self-Care” Look Like to the Lower Income in Singapore?

In Media mentions, Resources by Kumarr

In Rice Media October 30th, 2019:

“For these women who come from the lower-income community, self-care is Whampoa Drive, friendship, walks in the park, spending time with children, sitting at the void deck after their family has fallen asleep in order to listen to music in peace, and 10 minutes spent drinking tea (or sometimes five).”

This features the experiences of lower-income women in Singapore, the options they have for self-care, and the ways they care for each other.

Link to full article here

Attaining New Baking Skills: Turning Lives arounds at Beyond

In Media mentions, Resources by Kumarr

In Lianhe Zaobao newspaper November 26, 2019:

“In five years, not only has Yashmin moved from the shelter to a rental flat, she has also met her husband, who also volunteered with Beyond Social Services. At the same time, she organises baking workshops and receives many orders on festive days.”

This article features Bakers’ Beyond new training space at Blk 75 Whampoa Drive. The space was designed by Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s “etc.lab” and will give more mothers an opportunity to generate some income for their families, meet new friends and develop their skills.

Link to full article here