MOM working to improve food for quarantined foreign workers
Caterers supplying food to foreign workers in the three dormitories gazetted as isolation areas have implemented new measures to improve distribution and quality of the food.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Thursday evening that the measures included tasting sessions to ensure the food suits the palate of the workers and leveraging on automation to speed up the packaging of meals.
They have also roped in more manpower for faster cooking and deliveries.
MOM said in its statement that conditions at the three dormitories – S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, Westlite Toh Guan Dormitory and Toh Guan Dormitory -- have continued to improve as routines are streamlined.
Earlier on Thursday, the ministry posted on Facebook to assert steps were being taken to improve the situation. This was in response to social media posts alleging that some of the food was substandard and unfit for consumption.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Ms Kokila Annamalai, 32, an activist for migrant worker communities, said she was told by workers they could not bite through vegetables that were “old and very tough”.
The former community engagement manager at Aware added: “They also said the food is tasteless. Dinner last night was worse. The veggies were sour and spoiled.”
Included in her post was a photo of a packet of food, which she initially said was from Westlite Dormitory in Toh Guan but later changed it to Toh Guan Dormitory.
Comparing the meal to what Singaporeans serving stay-home notices in hotels are served, she wrote: “How do we live with ourselves, Singapore?”
In its post, MOM wrote: “Over the last few days, MOM has been working with multiple professional caterers to progressively improve the quality of the food. And we will continue to make improvements along the way.”
It included a video taken at Toh Guan Dormitory showing packets of rice with fish and vegetables, and a resident saying: “The food is very hygienic, very tasty and very healthy.”
In an update to her post on Thursday, Ms Kokila said: “Workers in the dorms under quarantine say their meals today are better than the past few days. Advocacy matters.”
Ms Kokila, who had declined to comment on her first post, told The New Paper: “I posted today on how the situation has improved and that’s the goal. For the public to see where there are gaps and push for improvements.”
TNP has reached out to Toh Guan Dormitory for comment.
Westlite Dormitory told TNP on Wednesday night that the packet of food shown in Ms Kokila’s earlier post is different from those served to its residents.
Its spokesman said: “The meals at Westlite Toh Guan come in very different packaging, and are more complete than the image shown. In addition, we supplement the meal with fruits daily.”
S11 Dormitory @ Punggol, Westlite in Toh Guan and Toh Guan Dormitory are among several foreign worker dorms with Covid-19 clusters.
The three dorms have been gazetted as isolation areas, with their residents quarantined in their rooms for 14 days.
Ms Kokila also said in her post she had received reports that dorms are refusing to accept donations of essential items.
She asked: “Why should migrant workers be deprived of these acts of care?”
Migrant worker advocacy group TWC2 also said some workers had claimed they were charged for meals provided to them but did not name any dorm.
Westlite and S11 said both claims are untrue.
“We are happy to accept donations and help from organisations which are concerned and wish to provide help to our foreign worker residents,” said the Westlite spokesman.
S11 Dormitories managing director Johnathan Cheah told TNP that residents do not have to pay for the catered meals, and it was not aware of any request for donations from volunteer groups.
Both said that volunteers are not allowed to enter the dorms because they are isolation areas.
“We would deeply appreciate if such donations could be pre-packed and ready for distribution, to reduce logistic needs on our part,” said the Westlite spokesman.
He added that Westlite had received donations of thousands of toiletries, hand sanitisers and other items from organisations like Project Chulia Street and SG Accident Help Centre.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: WONG YANG