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The Straits Times
September 19, 2023
In a Facebook group where users donate items such as food, clothing and furniture to lower-income families, user Victor Yew’s post with a photo of a plastic storage box of rice has garnered an unusual amount of attention.
In a post on Sept 14, Mr Yew said he was giving away rice “with a lot of weevils”. Weevils are small beetles commonly found in crops.
As at Tuesday afternoon, there were 31 comments under his post, which has also been shared four times.
Facebook user Banurekha Premkumar, who commented on the post to express her objection to the item being offered or “blessed”, told The Straits Times: “Blessing is an act of kindness and I feel that it should not become an act of clearing unwanted or spoilt items in our household.
“My opinion would be that blessing items should be in good or new condition, just as how those of lower-income would expect to get from supermarkets.”
The Facebook group “(SG) Blessing of items for low income families”, where Mr Yew’s post was made, was created in April 2018 and has more than 52,000 members.
Users share photographs and descriptions of the items they want to give away and page visitors comment on the post if they wish to have them. Most posts attract fewer than 10 comments, most of which are by users expressing an interest.
One of the group’s founders, Ms Sharen Tan, said she did not remove the post, as she found the listing acceptable. In the past, she had taken down posts which offered pairs of shoes in unwearable condition and a leather sofa which was peeling.
Ms Tan, 39, said weevil-infested rice was commonplace when she was younger.
The office administrator said: “Because I was born in the 80s, I used to face this issue and we would just put the rice under the sun.
“Nowadays people look at things differently. But for me, as long as the condition of the item is stated clearly in the description, it depends on whether the receiver wants the item.”
Some commenters on Mr Yew’s post took a similar stance as Ms Tan, sharing different ways to remove the insects, like putting the rice in the sun or leaving garlic and bay leaves in it.
Facebook user Swapon Chy, who indicated interest in the rice, told ST arrangements have been made with Mr Yew to collect it. The user did not find the insects a big problem and said the rice just had to be cleaned properly.
Mr Yew, who in February gave away two fridges and a loudspeaker through the same group, has not responded to ST’s request for comment.
But in response to a comment on his post that was critical of his donation, Mr Yew said that he was being upfront with the weevils in the rice, adding that this meant those interested would “only take when they are comfortable with the condition”.
He also said that his family still ate the rice, but explained that he was giving it away, as there “too much” of it for them to consume, and not because it was weevil-infested.
According to the Singapore Food Agency’s website, weevil-infested rice can be safely consumed after the insects are removed. But to some social organisations, it does not make the cut.
Ms Cindy Berlandier, the assistant general manager of social enterprise Project Dignity, said the rice would not be accepted if it was donated to them.
“But there are two schools of thought – if (Mr Yew) is transparent and people want to receive, then it’s okay. If it comes from a place of generosity and willingness to help, you can’t fault him,” she added.
Ms Emily Teng, founder of non-profit organisation Blessings in a Bag, said she was appalled but not surprised by the post, as she often comes across donations that are in poor condition, such as used underwear and mouldy clothing.
She added: “We encourage gifters to ask themselves the following question when considering whether to pass on an item: ‘Would I feel proud to give this to a friend or to my own child?’
“We want giving to be done with dignity, thoughtfulness, care and most importantly, love.”