Buy S$3.50 meals in advance for folks in need at Bukit Batok coffee shop

Pay it forward.

Jeanette Tan | January 29, 2018, 02:41 PM

A coffee shop in Bukit Batok allows you to conveniently do good, all in the course of having your lunch.

At De Tian Coffee Shop on Bukit Batok East Avenue 4, all you need is a spare S$3.50.

You can pay this amount in advance, while buying your own food, for a meal for someone else who might not be able to afford it.

Photo via Rain Kooh's Facebook post

Here's how it works, according to the poster above:

1. You tell the stallholder you want to belanja (Malay for "treat", meaning "pay for") a meal

2. Pay for the extra meal at S$3.50, and get a coloured magnet

3. Stick the magnet to a whiteboard located in front of the drink stall, where a person in need can take to redeem

And here's the aforementioned whiteboard:

Photo via Rain Kooh's Facebook post

Not bad.

This system of free meals, according to the poster, is intended for people who were "identified by Bukit Batok East Zone 2 RC", however.

You can see a Facebook post from one Rain Kooh, who noticed it, here:

If you'd like to support this effort and visit the coffee shop, you can find it at Block 265 Bukit Batok East Ave 4, #01-405, Singapore 650265.


Potential drawbacks & opportunities

Folks who saw Kooh's post largely praised it and shared it as well, encouraging others to contribute to the effort.

And while the details of how the needy residents are identified are not made clear in the poster, it's possible it works in a similar fashion to another project running in Choa Chu Kang GRC.

There, staff from the local community club and residents' committee provide cards to residents in need who can flash it to redeem cups of coffee or tea.

There certainly are challenges in implementation, with both these projects, that could be improved, however — folks who are in need may not feel very dignified queuing up with a magnet in hand, or even with flashing a card, for instance.

Perhaps the nationwide effort to move toward cashless payment may aid efforts like this, especially at hawker centres, where if everyone used cards to pay, with the needy also perhaps having pre-paid meals loaded onto their cards, it can all be made more discreet.

Concept borrowed from previous similar ones

One of the earliest movements in this direction was called "Chope food for the needy", started by Singaporean Michelle Tan in 2013.

The idea behind it was much more community and ground-up driven, going with the idea that it is stallholders who will know who the needy are, and would be able to identify them and provide free meals for them.

Paying the stallholders money for meals in advance, or "choping" meals for the needy, supports the hawkers in their endeavour to show kindness to the needy who patronise their stalls.

Tan, who was inspired by the concept of "suspended coffees" overseas, advocated the movement even while she fought brain cancer, and eventually succumbed to it in 2015, but what she started led to a chapter in Kuala Lumpur as well:

It's good to know the spirit of Tan's movement lives on in these neighbourhood initiatives — and it's also good to know one doesn't necessarily need the People's Association to start it up, although institutional support is always helpful.

Top photo via Rain Kooh's Facebook post