S’poreans seek free meals as economic hardship deepens

Agence France Presse
9 November 2003

A rising number of Singaporeans affected by the poor state of the economy are turning up at places of worship that offer free food, the Sunday Times reported.

“With the economic downturn, more and more jobless Singaporeans are also coming here to eat,” said Lee Bock Guan, president of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge which has been serving free meals since 1974.

“If a starving person comes to you, you couldn’t possibly turn him away, right? So we began serving free food,” he said.

More than 1000 people turn up at the Buddhist lodge daily for the buffet prepared by volunteers, Lee said. Initially only about a dozen turned up for the meals.

On Sundays, the lodge feeds as many as 4500 people, Lee said.

A Sikh temple in the city-state also serves free food daily, drawing devotees, residents and workers in nearby areas.

Singapore is going through one its toughest slump as the unemployment rate surged to a 17-year high of 5.9 percent.

The city-state has shown signs of a revival after the slump caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak and the Iraq war in March but the economic recovery is fragile as firms seek to trim costs.

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