The Food-Stall Owners Who Wouldn't Let Anyone Go Hungry

Aik kai Teo Jason Chua and Hung Zhen Long, who co-own Beng Who Cooks in the popular Hong Lim Market & Food Centre, on Aug. 11

As restaurants around the world took huge hits during COVID-19 lockdowns, two food-stall owners in Singapore remained busier than ever. When the Southeast Asian city-state went into a “circuit breaker” lockdown in April to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Jason Chua and Hung Zhen Long, who co-own Beng Who Cooks in the popular Hong Lim Market & Food Centre, took to delivering food—free of charge—to anyone who couldn’t afford it.

Chua says the idea was prompted by a friend who told him about seeing an elderly man begging for money in a coffee shop; the friend asked Chua if they could do something to help. Just hours later, Chua and Hung shared a message on the Beng Who Cooks Instagram page, telling Singaporeans to reach out if they needed a free meal, with a promise to not ask any questions. They were soon inundated with requests.

Chua and Hung put up roughly $6,000 of their personal funds for the cause, while Chua’s friend—the one who had raised the initial concern about food access during the pandemic—donated $5,000 more. From April to June, when lockdown measures eased, Chua estimates that they gave away around 2,500 meals—each consisting of a bowl of rice, a protein and two vegetables.

Life has largely returned to normal in Singapore, where COVID-19 is currently under control. Beng Who Cooks has stopped its deliveries, and Chua and Hung have shuttered the food stall to focus on a new endeavor: opening a restaurant. But their work during lockdown gave new meaning to goodwill, which accountants, when determining the full value of a business, describe as an intangible asset. Not that this was about business. “I don’t want to see kids or families go hungry,” Chua says.

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