The idea for45RICE was sparked in March, 2015, when a study conducted by the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Culture-centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (NUS CARE) highlighted the poor quality and low nutritional value of the food consumed by migrant construction workers in Singapore. The matrix of the food insecurity issue stems from various socioeconomic factors, translated into challenges faced by the construction workers; at the core of the problem is the relationship between low wages and a high cost of food in Singapore. Coupled with the fact that a key priority for these workers is to remit most of their earnings to their families in their home countries, healthy food and good nutrition ultimately takes a back seat.
In efforts to find a cost-effective solution to deliver proper nutrition and improve the food security for these workers, BoP Hub, a social enterprise accelerator, approached DSM to bring fortified rice to Singapore. At the core of 45RICE’s work is the rice fortification technology developed by DSM, and an innovative social business model designed by BoP HUB for the specific local context of Singapore. Rice fortification has been proven to be one of the most cost-effective solutions for delivering nutrition, and it is supported by the likes of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP ).
Since its incorporation in February 2016, 45RICE has steadily gained support from key stakeholders, including construction companies, food caterers, government agencies, non-governmental agencies (NGOs) and the news media, in order to further its mission of improving lives through nutrition. In addition to its plans to bring fortified rice to Singapore, 45RICE has developed an online platform through which construction companies (employers) can connect with partner caterers that have been endorsed by 45RICE, to provide high quality nutritious meals for their workers. To date, 45RICE has provided 500,000 individual meals for construction workers through its online platform. At the end of 2016, 45RICE raised social financing of SG$1 million as part of its efforts to scale its social impact, eventually affecting all 325,000 construction workers in Singapore.
2017 is an important year for 45RICE, as it looks to produce and distribute its fortified rice at a commercial scale. In addition to providing better nutrition to the migrant construction workers in Singapore, 45RICE plans to expand its pool of target beneficiaries – to include Singaporeans – by the end of the year. As a start-up social enterprise, 45RICE is constantly looking for partnership opportunities in order to further its mission.
Beyond 2017, 45RICE eventually hopes to take its innovative social business model to other countries facing similar food insecurity or micro-nutrient deficiency issues.
To learn more and keep up with the 45RICE journey, you can follow 45RICE on Facebook at facebook.com/45rice, or visit the upcoming website, 45rice.com.