This made my day: Chinatown restaurant gives away thousands of meals to the needy during circuit breaker

PHOTO: Shin Min Daily News, Instagram/Naga Imo

While some elderly folks insist on having their meals in hawker centres, others are queueing up in Chinatown for a free meal to fill their bellies.

Since the circuit breaker started, a Japanese restaurant along Club Street has been giving away meals for lunch and dinner daily to the needy living in the area.

Seeing how many Singaporeans' livelihoods are impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the owners of Naga Imo decided to help.

On April 8, the restaurant started to distribute 200 boxes of food at two locations — Chinatown and Jalan Kukoh.

"When we realised the amount we had prepared didn't meet the demand, we increased the quantity to 220 meals a day," Bernard Teo, 39, told AsiaOne.

The eatery has distributed close to 4,600 meals to date.

People queue up in Chinatown to receive a free meal on April 17, 2020. PHOTO: Reuters

When mealtime came, many senior citizens formed an orderly queue, a reporter from Shin Min Daily News observed on April 26.

As some restaurant staff gave out the packed food, others helped to manage the crowd and remind them to observe safe distancing.

One of the seniors who received a meal told the Chinese daily that she had lost her job as a dishwasher due to the coronavirus outbreak, which saw the ban of eating at food and beverage outlets earlier this month.

The 69-year-old, who lives in the vicinity, has been collecting the free meals after hearing about the initiative.

"The servings are generous and the dishes are different every day," she said.

A 65-year-old ice cream peddler, who used to earn $20 a day, similarly lost his income during this difficult period.

"I have no income now, I am grateful for the free food."

Business at the restaurant may have plunged 90 per cent since the pandemic, but this hasn't stopped Teo from funding the initiative with his own money.

He couldn't have done all this without the help of others, such as his staff who volunteered to put in extra hours to help with the food distribution, he said.

Donors also play a large role in the charity drive, Teo told AsiaOne. The initiative has raised about $17,000 so far, and the money will be used to prepare free meals until June 1, the end of the extended circuit breaker.

Remaining amounts, if any, will be used to provide meals or groceries for the needy living in the area.

Teo also noted that the crowd at the collection point in Chinatown has grown since the initiative received media attention and added that he may increase the number of meals given out daily from 220 to 280 after monitoring the demand over the next two days.

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lamminlee@asiaone.com