Singapore

Programme that gives a leg up to aspiring hawkers expanded

Ms Poh Ying Min, 29, used to harbour dreams of opening her own healthy food business.

So when colleagues suggested that she sell salads, she took a chance and since July, she has been running a customised salad bowl stall at Block 163 Bukit Merah Central Food Centre under the Incubation Stall Programme - a subsidised programme to help new hawkers.

There are two such stalls at the centre.

"Definitely it's tough, long hours, but the sense of satisfaction is different from working in the corporate world," said Ms Poh, who earns less now than when she was a senior marketing executive.

Demand for the National Environment Agency (NEA) programme has grown, with more than 40 people vying for 13 stalls since its launch in February.

Two more stalls have been added, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, announced yesterday.

The programme rents a stall to aspiring hawkers for six months at half the market rate.

The stallholders are between 27 and 42 years old, compared with the median age of 59 for hawkers here, according to research published last year.

Dr Khor was visiting Block 163 Bukit Merah Central Food Centre and Block 20 Ghim Moh Road Market and Food Centre, where three of the stalls are.

Of the first three participants who joined the programme in February, two have quit and the other has been granted an extension until April next year.

The other incubation stall at Block 163 Bukit Merah Central Food Centre is run by former part-time bartender Kwan Yee Liang, who sells handmade noodles. He earns $3,000 a month, up from $2,000 previously.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for NEA said the agency is looking into the issues raised by food critic K.F. Seetoh on Tuesday on his Makansutra website where he called for better regulation of not-for-profit hawker centres.

Mr Seetoh had said in a post in August that rents at social enterprise hawker centres, where hawkers struggle with high operating costs, were unsustainable.

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