The Rice Garden project by NTUC Foodfare benefits aspiring hawker-preneurs and the lower income
Photos: NTUC Foodfare Co-operative Ltd
Helmed by NTUC Foodfare, the Rice Garden project strives to benefit both union members as well as Singaporeans at large, particularly the lower income.
When Madam Cai Pei Jun isn’t dancing, swimming, jogging or cooking, she runs a Rice Garden Stall, which provides affordable cooked food.
Helmed by NTUC Foodfare, the Rice Garden project strives to benefit both union members as well as Singaporeans at large, particularly those in need.
Growing A Pool Of Hawker-preneurs
Established in response to the impact of rising food prices on consumers, in particular the elderly and low-income group, the initiative by NTUC Foodfare provides highly affordable and nutritious meals starting from as low as $1.50 on a daily basis.
Having been a full-time housewife for most part of her life, Mdm Cai returned to the workforce as a stall helper at the drink counter at NTUC Foodfare for about half a year. But after hearing about the Rice Garden Business Community Partnership Programme, the 36-year-old seized the opportunity to become a hawker-preneur.
Under The Rice Garden Business Community Partnership Programme (BCPP), existing food stall operators who already own a stall in hawker centres or coffee shops can convert their stalls to Rice Garden outlets. New “hawker-preneurs” like Mdm Cai who would like to start their own food stalls can apply to be part of this programme as well.
Established in response to the impact of rising food prices on consumers, in particular the elderly and low-income group, the initiative by NTUC Foodfare provides highly affordable and nutritious meals.
Full Funding Support
Apart from receiving funding support for the stall and equipment set up, participants also get to undergo training programmes, marketing support and receive community programme funding grants of $4,000 per month to sell cooked food at Rice Garden outlets.
A set meal with two vegetables and a meat starts from $1.50 for ComCare and NTUC Foodfare Privilege Cardholders, while the same set meal is priced from $2 onwards for Concession cardholders and NTUC union members.
Plus, food supplies and raw materials from Foodfare’s central kitchen and central procurement will also be provided to aid food preparation, menu development, taste consistency and address manpower crunch.
The programme is open to Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and Singapore registered companies.
Fulfilling Community Goals
The decision to join the BCPP was the right one for Mdm Cai, as she was able to gain financial independence and expand her social network at the same time. For her, the unexpected bonus was enjoying extra quality time with her family, as they tend to visit her stall as a show of support.
Beyond perks like flexible hours and financial independence, it is the meaningful moments encountered that continue to drive Mdm Cai’s passion for what she does.
She recounts fondly of a particular customer, a 70-year-old man who regularly visits her stall to enjoy the special concessionary set. During occasions when he didn’t have enough cash on him, she had no qualms about treating him to a meal.
Many others, like Mdm Cai, have found a sense of fulfilment and purpose through the Rice Garden Project. For NTUC Foodfare, this project is but one among the many initiatives they’ve launched, with the primary purpose of helping to stabilise cooked food prices for Singaporeans, as well as offer quality cooked food at affordable prices.
Started by the Labour Movement in 1995, they’ve evolved from a single coffee shop operator to a full-fledged F&B provider, which offers a full suite of food solutions spanning across different retail formats including food courts, coffee shops, hawker centres, cafeteria, local cafés.
At these Rice Garden outlets, a set meal with two vegetables and a meat starts from $1.50 for ComCare and NTUC Foodfare Privilege Cardholders.
How has the Rice Garden benefitted the people and strengthened the social objective of NTUC Foodfare?
– Since the introduction of Rice Garden BCPP stalls in 2015, 860,000 concessionary meals have been provided.
– We are reaching out and benefitting more people with our affordable and nutritious meals as we continue to strengthen our social impact.
What upcoming events or projects can the public look out for from the Rice Garden project or NTUC Foodfare in general?
– Ultimately, we will like to grow as many Rice Garden stalls as possible – either by Foodfare or through our existing/future partners or other initiatives and programmes.
– As for NTUC Foodfare, we hope to be able to make significant and positive impacts on the following three areas where most Singaporeans are deeply concerned with, namely rising cost of living, health matters and caring for our aged.
How can one go about setting up a co-op?
Those who are keen to set up their own co-ops can approach SNCF for help and guidance on the necessary steps and application process. Interested parties can visit www.sncf.org.sg for more information.
This is the last of a three-part series on Singapore’s co-operative movement brought to you by the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF).
Find out more information about NTUC Foodfare at foodfare.com.sg
For those who are interested to be part of the programme or to find out more details, please kindly contact Mr Ronz (6550 6580) or Mr Randy (6550 6581).