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Why These 2 S'poreans Launched A "Social Kitchen" Hiring Needy Workers During COVID-19

“We’re not just a cloud kitchen. We’re a social kitchen,” says Alvin Yapp, co-founder of The Social Kitchen.

Launched last Saturday (August 1), the social enterprise opened its flagship kitchen at the Y cafe in YMCA at Orchard Road.

They are dubbed Singapore’s first social enterprise cloud kitchen, which provides local F&B with rental spaces and hires disadvantaged communities.

That includes low-income families, single mothers, those with disabilities, caregivers and family members.

The Social Kitchen Social Enterprise Co Founders alvin yapp ang kian peng
Image Credit: The Social Kitchen

The co-founders of The Social Kitchen — Alvin and Ang Kian Peng — are both winners of the President’s Volunteerism & Philanthropy Award.

Alvin is also the owner of BusAds, a vehicle advertising corporation. He also runs the Intan, an independent Peranakan Museum that doubles as an events space.

Meanwhile, Kian Peng is a social entrepreneur who is a board member of Beyond Social Services and mentors at the Company of Good.

Helping The Underprivileged Get A Career Boost

The Social Kitchen is filling in the employment gap for underprivileged groups, a gap that has been widened by Covid-19.

Currently, The Social Kitchen has 12 staff, out of which five are beneficiaries, two of whom have high-functioning autism.

It’s so emotional to see our beneficiaries gainfully employed — they’ve become so confident.

We can never understand (our beneficiaries) because we are not them. But when they feel comfortable in their own skin — that’s what makes it worth doing.

Alvin Yapp, co-founder of The Social Kitchen

Workers are given training and employment support, and compensated at market wage. With a pay of S$5/hr, it allows them to earn up to S$1,200 a month.

Flexible part-time employment is also an option. It allows carers, who can’t work regular 9-to-5 jobs to split their time between work and their dependents.

Ultimately, The Social Kitchen is intended as a stepping stone. The hope is that the cloud kitchen’s workers can pursue a career with the F&B brands it partners with.

“It’s a soft-sell; we’re letting nature take its course,” Alvin explains. “It’s not an agenda that we push.”

Giving S’pore’s F&B Industry A Fighting Chance

The Social Kitchen also aims to give struggling F&B brands a “fighting chance” during the Covid-19 pandemic. Traditional restaurants face high manpower and rental costs, which are lethal during a period of low footfall.

“These businesses still have a loyal following online, and with the Social Kitchen, we will take care of preparation and delivery,” says Alvin.

The Social Kitchen at YMCA will host nine local F&B brands, including Boufe Boutique Cafe, Foreword Coffee Roasters and Ming Fa Fishball.

The Social Kitchen Social Enterprise
Image Credit: The Social Kitchen

Alvin declined to comment on the rental model for The Social Kitchen’s cloud kitchens but shared that rent varies depending on location and payment type.

He added that The Social Kitchen is open to launching “anywhere that (our stakeholders) can give us a space.”

The social enterprise is currently in talks to partner with stakeholders like the Ministry of Family Affairs, ministers of constituencies, religious places of worship, community centers and Kris Shop.

“Our passion and sincerity moved them. During Covid-19, people are more open to radical ideas. There’s an unprecedented willingness to try something different.

Alvin Yapp, co-founder of The Social Kitchen

Currently, The Social Kitchen’s delivers its food through Grab and Oodles, which Alvin deems a necessary arrangement.

However, an independent delivery platform and IT system are also in the works, Alvin divulges.

Social Enterprise With Ambition

The Social Kitchen is an “accidental kitchen,” Alvin says, adding that plans to set it up earlier this year were halted by the Covid-19 outbreak.

In response, Alvin and Kian Peng decided to initiate Project Makan during the circuit breaker, which distributed free meals to low-income families. More than 130,000 meals were delivered.

The project raised S$164,590 on giving.sg, and reached up to S$700,000 in cash and kind, says Alvin. He notes that while corporate giving decreased, private donations have increased.

Following the success of Project Makan, YMCA offered Alvin and Kian Peng access to its kitchens, and the rest is history.

The Social Kitchen won’t stop at YMCA. It plans to launch 50 kitchens island wide, with one new kitchen opening every month.

The social enterprise is also looking at expanding overseas, says Alvin.

The entrepreneurs will launch Project Makan 2.0 on National Day, serving at least 15,000 free meals to underprivileged communities around Singapore.

People are experiencing the same (pandemic) situation and want to give. We must recognise that people are innately good.

Now, I can say that during Covid-19, we achieved something that we’re proud of. That’s enough for us.

Alvin Yapp, co-founder of The Social Kitchen

Featured Image Credits: The Social Kitchen

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