Coronavirus: Restaurant owner and team feed the needy in Chinatown, come rain or shine

Mr Bernard Teo (in red) and his cousin Amanda Ng (right), a hairstylist, giving out food packs for free outside the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple last Wednesday. Mr Teo, who owns Japanese restaurant Naga Imo, has been helming efforts to provide daily lun
Mr Bernard Teo (in red) and his cousin Amanda Ng (right), a hairstylist, giving out food packs for free outside the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple on April 29, 2020.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

In the sweltering midday heat, Mr Bernard Teo and his team are handing out free food packs to a long queue that stretches along the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown.

It takes the team of three about 15 minutes to give out all 110 lunch meals to the needy, most of whom are elderly.

Since April 8, the day after the circuit breaker measures kicked in, Mr Teo, 39, has been helming efforts to provide daily lunch and dinner to the less fortunate living in Chinatown.

This amounts to providing 220 food packs a day. With growing media publicity alerting more people in need to his initiative, Mr Teo plans to increase the number of food packs to at least 260 in the next few days to cater to the growing queue.

He has raised over $17,000 via social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, attracting support from the community. Mr Teo himself donated $500.

"Since I was young, I've been taught to repay society for having given me so much," said Mr Teo. "Everybody is going through a hard time during the circuit breaker and this is the least I can do to help the unfortunate."

Mr Teo is the owner of Japanese restaurant Naga Imo in Club Street. His staff at the restaurant do the cooking and take care to prepare a different meal each time.

A typical food pack consists of rice, meat and vegetables. The cost of one pack ranges from $1.20 to $1.50 depending on the ingredients. Mindful of religious dietary requirements, Mr Teo serves only chicken.

In line with safe distancing guidelines, his team of volunteers and staff ensure that those in the queue stand 1m apart and wear a mask at all times.

 
 

Mr Teo is determined to provide food packs until the circuit breaker period ends on June 1. On rainy days, the meals are given out in a nearby car park or another sheltered location near the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

"It is definitely tough, from preparing and cooking the food to distributing the food packs under the hot sun and rain," said Mr Teo. "But it is always the smile on the old folks' face that makes everything worthwhile."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2020, with the headline 'Restaurant owner and team feed the needy in Chinatown, come rain or shine'. Subscribe