Viet Street social enterprise restaurant serves fresh food, brings good luck to senior citizens and low-income families in Hong Kong – YP

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Every day at 11 a.m., a restaurant called Viet Street in Yau Ma Tei opens its doors to a long line of about twenty people who are already waiting in line impatiently to enter. Some of them even brought stools to sit on while waiting.

Within an hour of opening, around 250 people are said to have left the restaurant in gratitude with a box lunch, a bowl of soup and perhaps more importantly, good fortune.

The point of sale, along with three other restaurants of the Gingko House group, distribute around 1,000 free meals to disadvantaged residents daily, seven days a week. This represents 30,000 boxed lunches per month.

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“We call the meals crazy crazy“said Wicky Chan Chi-ming, director of operations at Viet Street. The Chinese words mean” makeshift meal. “

“We wish the recipients good luck, good health and luck. “

Gingko House is a social enterprise established in 2003 to promote employment for the city’s elderly. To get this message across, it primarily hires aging workers.

Over the years, Gingko House has evolved into more than just a chain of restaurants. It’s also a platform for people to give back. Schools often work with its branches so that students can learn how to help the underprivileged.

Viet Street insists on using high quality ingredients in the free meals they offer so that the underprivileged can also have a choice of what they eat. Photo: Léa Li

“Teachers bring their students here to volunteer. Then we match the young volunteers with the older people to reflect on their experiences, ”Chan said.

Viet Street opened in 2017 in a neighborhood where many disadvantaged seniors live. After seeing how low-income families in the area were struggling to cope, Chan lowered the price of the restaurant’s boxed meals to HK $ 12. The decision received massive public support, with many asking to pay for the meals.

The decision received overwhelming public support, with many asking to pay for the meals.

In December 2020, many Hong Kong residents lost their jobs amid the worsening coronavirus outbreak. Thus, Viet Street and three other restaurants in Gingko House stepped up their efforts, offering around 1,000 free meals a day, even when Viet Street was also in financial difficulty.

Wicky Chan (right), director of operations at Viet Street restaurant, believes everyone should be able to choose what they eat. Photo: Léa Li

“We insisted on using the best quality ingredients and giving those in need a choice of what they eat. We believe that everyone should have the freedom of choice, no matter what difficult situation they find themselves in, ”Chan said.

Many of the beneficiaries are elderly unemployed people, such as Chou, 73. She lives with her husband in an apartment on the sixth floor of a building with no elevator.

“Most of the buildings in this area have no elevator. It’s very disturbing. But what can I do? My partner cannot walk and we are both unemployed. I have no choice but to come here and have the free meal to keep us alive, ”she said.

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The other beneficiaries of the free meals live in lao thong, or subdivided apartments, depending solely on government allowances and their savings, according to Ray Tam Ki-fai, a social worker who worked with Viet Street.

There are around 110,000 of these shoebox-sized living spaces in Hong Kong. The median monthly rent is HK $ 4,800, and three-quarters of those living there have reported that rents have increased in the past year, according to an official report released earlier this year.

The government has proposed to cap rent increases at 15% over a two-year period for apartments in housing estates, but residents said that was not enough.

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Annike Lam, 52, has been volunteering at Viet Street for over a year. She meets daily at the restaurant with other volunteers at 9:30 am to pack boxes of meals. She lost her job during the pandemic, but it allowed her to help others in need.

Lam recalled a time when another volunteer wanted to give packets of instant noodles to people who lined up in front of the restaurant. But they rejected the food because they didn’t have the space and equipment to cook at home.

“This episode touched my heart. It made me realize that having a place to live and food to eat are already the greatest blessings, ”she said.

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