He gives 'food from the heart' to the needy
His charity reaches out to 25,000 people across Singapore, ensuring they do not go hungry
This National Day, we celebrate with 16 stories of people who overcame adversity to give back to society. Read their stories and watch the videos at tnp.sg/ndp2016
"You eat. Ah Ma is not hungry."
But Ah Ma was.
Yet whatever money she had, she would spend on grandson Anson Quek.
The executive director of Food from the Heart, a non-profit organisation that channels unused food to those in need, said what his grandmother did for him etched deeply in his mind.
"My grandmother, my parents. They willingly went hungry to ensure that my siblings and I had enough to eat, enough to wear, and an education," Mr Quek, 52, said.
His family of six lived in a one-room flat in Yio Chu Kang.
"Both my parents worked and my grandmother took care of us. I remember her taking me to the government dentist along Penjuru Road. They only charged 50 cents per visit," he said.
"And usually after the visit, she would buy food for me and watch me eat. When I asked why she wasn't eating, she would say she was not hungry," he recalled.
Today, Mr Quek, a Tote Board scholar, makes it a point to ensure that no one goes hungry - children and adults alike.
His non-profit organisation reaches out to grassroots organisations and welfare homes by distributing food items to those in need.
"Actually, I'm an accidental social worker," he said, laughing.
"When we first started, we had totally zero knowledge of how a charity should be run or what charity is all about.
"We just knew that on the one hand, bakeries were discarding huge amounts of bread and on the other, there were under privileged families who were hungry.
"We needed to bridge the gap."
Food from the Heart was started by Austrian couple Henry and Christine Laimer in 2003 to collect unsold bread from bakeries, hotels and restaurants for distribution to the needy.
It had 120 volunteers and gave to 26 welfare homes when it was launched.
Now that number has grown to over 1,700 volunteers and the charity reaches out to 25,000 beneficiaries across Singapore.
Mr Quek took over the running of Food from the Heart after the Laimers left Singapore in 2011.
Apart from collecting bread, the charity also works with manufacturers and supermarkets to collect and store canned food that are slightly damaged during delivery or near expiry date.
It also supports other voluntary welfare organisations by supplying to them.
Through schools, Food from the Heart also supplies monthly non-perishable food items to over 4,200 individuals from the families of over 1,000 school children.
Mr Quek also said he has learnt "not to judge by looking at appearances".
"A needy family sent their maid to come collect our care package. My first thought was that they must not be that needy to hire a helper," he said.
"But I learnt that it is a single mother family, who hired the maid out of necessity rather than a luxury. That was when I told myself I shouldn't judge."
And to boost the confidence of needy kids, Food from the Heart started the I CAN Award in 2013.
"Many of these kids don't win academic accolades. They are the ones who provide applause for classmates who do.
"To motivate them, we came up with the I CAN award to celebrate those who have good attendance at school or good behaviour. This way we serve to encourage them to achieve their highest potential," he said.
"A needy family sent their maid to come collect our care package. My first thought was that they must not be that needy to hire a helper. But I learnt that it is a single mother family, who hired the maid out of necessity rather than a luxury. That was when I told myself I shouldn’t judge." - Mr Anson Quek, executive director of Food from the Heart
TNP SPIRIT OF 16 GIVINGBACK
The beneficiary is Food from the Heart