Top 10 Facts About Hunger in SingaporeTo many, Singapore is an eccentric country with gleaming skyscrapers and a wealthy population. In essence, those with this vision are not wrong, seeing that the country is one of the wealthiest and most developed states in the world, simultaneously boasting the world’s highest concentration of millionaires. But, it is also home to the second-biggest inequality gap among advanced economies of Asia. Here, poverty is hidden. The top 10 facts about hunger in Singapore uncover the realities behind a country that many tend to overlook or simply ignore them.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Singapore

  1. Upwards of 23,000 children in Singapore are malnourished. Additionally, basic needs are inaccessible to 1 in 10 Singaporeans, including essentials such as food and shelter. But, the issue is larger than just putting food on the table and providing for the family. Access to healthy and nutritious food is not a reality for most, and consequently, such unhealthy diets lead to further health issues and chronic disease.
  2. Hidden hunger is real. Hidden hunger is when someone is suffering from malnutrition without feeling hunger. This has recently become a critical problem, specifically among migrant workers where the common food staple is rice. A diet reliant solely on rice, however, lacks adequate and essential nutrients, which leads to malnutrition. To combat this threatening social issue, an organization called BoP HUB is teaming up with a Dutch-based life sciences company by the name of DSM. The two organizations are focusing on fortifying rice, the Singaporean staple, so workers and those suffering from hidden hunger will have access to a nutritious alternative to regular rice, essentially turning meals from empty carbs to healthy carbs.
  3. Relative poverty is Singapore poverty. Relative poverty, more apparent in developed nations, regions and cities, is essentially the cutoff line for how much a household should be able to afford in terms of basic necessities. Even more so, relative poverty includes the monetary minimum needed to avoid “social exclusion.” In more developed nations, there are luxury goods that one can certainly live without, but, when lacking, will likely result in being socially marginalized and significantly limited in one’s career. Around 10-12 percent of households in Singapore fall below the basic living expenditure of $1,250 per month; however, 23-26 percent of households fall below the threshold of $3,000, the unwritten cutoff line that deems one to be either socially excluded or not.
  4. The complexity of poverty in Singapore is not understood. It is easy to assume that hunger doesn’t exist among the well-educated population of an affluent city-state, but unmet social needs are real and remain poorly understood. Associate Professor John Donaldson of the Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Social Sciences states that “Singapore’s economy developed rapidly, and the ‘Third World’ form of poverty has disappeared. Yet, many people fall into a type of ‘First World’ poverty.” According to economists and statistics, between 10-14 percent of Singaporeans suffer from severe financial trouble and pressure and are often unable to meet basic needs. Ultimately, hunger remains one of the most prominent issues.
  5. The Food Bank of Singapore has accepted the challenge of eradicating hunger. This organization receives donations of surplus food from retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Despite losing commercial value, the foods are still safe to consume. With 800,000 meals delivered monthly, the Food Bank is helping to curb the tide of hunger and give Singapore’s forgotten an opportunity to thrive. Furthermore, the organization works to spread awareness about hunger and decrease the stigma for those in need.
  6. The Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked Singapore as the second-most food secure country in the world, behind only the United States. Based on affordability, availability and quality and safety, Singapore is ahead of major food-producing nations despite its heavy dependence on food imports. With only 1 percent of the land being dedicated to agriculture, Singapore must import 90 percent of the country’s food, yet they have found a way to secure food. Through the diversification of food sources, the economy and food security are not highly impacted by other nation’s economic decline because the variety of import countries allows for flexibility.
  7. Local food production has increased. The Agri-Food and Veterinary (AVA) and the Food Fund have allowed Singapore to increase its local vegetable production by 30 percent over the past decade. Upwards of 40 percent of local farms are benefiting from the help of investment in advancements and new farming techniques such as hydroponics.
  8. Rising obesity in children and young adults foretells an increase in diabetes. Rates for diabetes in adults have already risen from 8.6 percent in 1992 to 12.9 percent in 2015. As a result of working life and less physical activity, obesity has been rising at a faster rate for the population under 40 years of age. Moreover, people continue to eat the same amount of food, but without the benefit of physical activity to keep them in check.
  9. Malnutrition among the elderly is increasing. In 2015, Tan Tock Seng Hospital estimated that about 30 percent of the elderly population were at risk of malnutrition. In such a developed country, this is a surprise to many. Malnutrition in the elderly increases the risk of medical complications, including infections, fractures and compromised recovery and rehabilitation.
  10. The Sustainable Development Goals aim to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030. This U.N. goal of “Zero Hunger” aims to eradicate food insecurity, providing sufficient and nutritious food to the population, especially the most vulnerable, all year round. The organization One Singapore is echoing this goal through foodbank programs working to eradicate poverty and hunger.

The top 10 facts about hunger in Singapore shine a light on the surprising challenges of malnutrition and poverty in a country of so much wealth. In forthcoming decades, there is hope that food security for the most vulnerable – children, elderly, and migrant workers – will increase. As a country with such a powerful reputation, it is vital to harbor awareness of the country’s struggles if such pervasive issues are to be alleviated.

Mary Grace Miller

Photo: Flickr