Gary Tranter

Own your journey

by

Another Man's Treasure:

Nicholas Ng

The co-founder of The Food Bank Singapore, a charity organisation that collects and delivers donated food to those in need, has been carrying the sustainability flag for the past half-a-decade.

Together with his co-founder, and sister, Nichol Ng, the organisation's advocacy has garnered support from grassroot volunteers to supermarket chains since they started in 2015. But nothing says "advocacy" without its fair share of resistance.

The road to building a sustainable charity organisation based on sustainability sounds all well on paper. However, the challenges Nicholas faced, not only as an entrepreneur but also as a humanitarian, is a wasteland filled with corporate doubt and logistical nightmares.

We speak with the man himself about how he navigates the bad days while doing good.

Nicholas Ng

In 2015, Singaporeans wasted 785,500 tonnes of food. That's equivalent to 108 fully loaded double-decker buses.

FROM A BUSINESS STANDPOINT, WHAT WERE YOUR PLANS WHEN YOU STARTED THE ORGANISATION AND HOW MUCH OF THAT HAS CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?

Our plan was to educate on food wastage and bridge the gap in food donations. The public has slowly warmed up to the idea of the food bank since we spend a lot of time on advocacy work and building a stronger volunteer pool. Food companies and businesses have also strengthened their support quite a fair bit since 2012. Having said that, we are far from what we should be achieving.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR TO GROW AND MAINTAIN THE GOALS OF AN ORGANISATION LIKE THE FOOD BANK SINGAPORE?

As with every other organisation, the people working or volunteering is one of the most important factors. If the people working for the organisation truly believe in the goals and vision, outsiders will feel the passion and the love of these people and in turn, they will feel a passion for the organisation they are working for.

WHAT WERE SOME OF THE GREATEST CHALLENGES FACING AN ORGANISATION LIKE YOURS AND HOW DID YOU WORK AROUND/THROUGH IT?

In the past year, we have faced an influx of donations and manpower was starting to be a problem. Besides hiring more people, we also tried to engage our volunteers and incorporated technology to ease the burdens off our team. One major challenge we have been facing since the start is the lack of donations from supermarkets, even though we are finally starting to work with one major supermarket chain. We hope that companies are more open to donating their surplus food and not just conveniently dump them away.

Nicholas Ng

WE HOPE THAT COMPANIES ARE MORE OPEN TO DONATING THEIR SURPLUS FOOD AND NOT JUST CONVENIENTLY DUMP THEM AWAY.

FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE THINKING OF STARTING THEIR OWN CHARITY ORGANISATION JUST LIKE THE FOOD BANK, WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE FOR THEM?

Do something that you have a passion and a strong opinion on. With that as a base, it doesn't matter if you start big or small, chances of the charity succeeding and sustaining are much greater.

EXPANDING FROM THE PREVIOUS QUESTION, HOW WOULD THE FOUNDER OF A CHARITY ORGANISATION CONTINUE TO BE FINANCIALLY SECURE—BOTH PERSONALLY AND OPERATIONALLY?

I think gone are the days where charities rely on handouts and cash donations. It's best if charity organisations are self-sustainable. For example, modelling themselves as a social enterprise where there is regular income via a business model.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE FOOD BANK?

In 2018, we plan to engage even more food companies and corporates. At the grassroot level, we plan to do more advocacy as well. For more on our activities, check out Food Bank Singapore.