On March 24, 2020, PM Narendra Modi imposed a 21 day-lockdown requesting citizens to “stay home, stay safe” in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Since then, the lockdown has been extended for the third time, till May 17, 2020. This move especially affected those working in the informal sector (90 per cent according to the International Labour Organization) – think sanitation workers, cobblers, daily wage earners, sex workers and more. With businesses closing and customers cooped up indoors, many who were otherwise housed and fed at their places of work have been rendered homeless and without a regular source of food.
It is to therefore to ease the effect of the COVID-19 induced lockdown, and to ensure that even the poorest of the poor are fed, state governments, institutions and even individuals have set up makeshift soup kitchens. Here is a state-wise lowdown of all the community kitchens that have been launched against the backdrop of the lockdown.
The first to introduce community kitchens in all the 941 panchayats of the state, the Kerala government entrusted Kudumbashree, a powerful self-help network of 43 lakh women, with this task.
More than 550 community kitchens were launched with plans of 1000 more such kitchens in the pipeline, according to an interview with Kudumbashree’s executive director Harikishore S.
Every panchayat in the state has a dedicated phone number and anybody who calls for food gets a cooked meal delivered to their home. Food is given free of cost to the financially weak, whereas the rest can get vegetarian meals for ₹20, for chicken/beef/fish ₹30 additional charges and for doorstep delivery an extra ₹5 per meal.
Municipal corporations of Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram have also set up community kitchens. Besides, under the CAReForU initiative, the Kerala Student Union too has established a community kitchen where members distribute food and water to unorganised daily wage workers.
In Kochi’s Vazhakulam Panchayat is running a community kitchen with help from ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, ward members and other officials, for the migrant community in the area.
With 500 hunger relief centres set up across the national capital, around 4 lakhs people who are now left homeless and jobless have been receiving aid as well as free lunch and dinner. With the help of district officials, Resident Welfare Associations, NGOs and socio-religious groups like the ISKCON, Radha Soami Satsang Beas and local gurdwaras, the government is ensuring that daily wage workers and their families are fed. While the Radha Soami Satsang Beas has been providing more than 50, 000 meals twice a day, the Akshaya Patra Foundation which provides mid-day meals, has been feeding about 70,000 people through its four kitchens. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee too, has been feeding about 20,000 people daily through its langar.
The LaLiT, part of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, is working with the state’s District Magistrates to provide meals to the stranded labourers and migrants, and has also donated food supplies—1000 kgs wheat flour, 300 kgs refined wheat flour, 700 kgs vegetables.
Meanwhile, the kitchens of Shanghai Surprise, a cloud kitchen based in DLF 3 in Gurugram, has been functioning as the centre of the community-led initiative Janta Rasoi, which offers food to the daily wagers.
Safe Approach, a night shelter, has started an open-air soup kitchen in northeast Delhi and is serves up to 8000 people, according to a report by Times Of India. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has set up about 46 community kitchens, one at Delhi’s Krishna Nagar which distributes food at Anand Vihar Bus Terminal.
Political parties, including the Indian National Congress with its Congress
Ki Rasoi initiative and Aam Aadmi Party have started their
own community kitchens to feed the homeless and needy people.
Besides, Jamaat-e-Islami, another political group, too has started its own community kitchen in Delhi’s Zakir Nagar.
The Maharashtra government has plans to run community kitchens with the help of private and non-government organisations, to help senior citizens, the physically challenged, and the poor and homeless. According to the Free Press Journal, the Nagpur district collector has launched ‘community Langar’ in the city to help the underprivileged and the homeless. The government has also reduced the Shiv Bhojan charges from ₹10 to ₹5 to ensure that everyone is fed even during the coronavirus induced lockdown.
Project Khana Chahiye in partnership with the Litmus Test Project, Bharat Utthan Sangh, Project Mumbai and The Bohri Kitchen have been piloting 1K+ meals for the homeless under flyovers of the Western Express Highway in Mumbai.
Similarly, Tulsiwadi's Attari Welfare Association in Mumbai and Feeding From Far, a community kitchen feeding project in Govandi, Mumbai have set up a community kitchen to feed the homeless, workers and patients in nearby hospitals.
Meanwhile, the Taj Group of Hotels, as partnered with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to provide free meals to government hospitals treating COVID-19 positive patients.
Following the lockdown announcement, around 15 NGOs and other religious groups are helping the government set up community kitchens. Till date, the state has managed setting up 527 such kitchens across. While these makeshift kitchens only cook meals, The Study Hall Educational Foundation along with Didi's Foods, a social enterprise, are some of the many organisations that are helping in the distribution and delivery.
A few private groups such as the volunteers of the Om Namay Shiva, a religious and spiritual organisation in Prayagraj, have stepped up to the occasion and set up a community kitchen at Gau Ghat to cater to around 2000 people daily. Meanwhile, in Meerut, Vijay Gupta, a police officer stationed at the Sadar Bazar, has turned his home into a community kitchen to serve the poor and the homeless. Moradabad’s women personnel have converted the police station into a community kitchen to feed “hundreds of poor people”. The police personnel at Pilibhit too have launched a ‘koi bhi bhukha na rahe’ plan to feed even the cattle and strays.
About 50 transgenders in Bareilly are providing food to 100 people every day, as pert a report by News18. Besides, in Prayagraj, another group of about 30 transgenders are serving food and water bottles to the homeless.
As of now, state-run Amma Canteens are playing the dual role of functioning as centralised community kitchens and also dine-in facilities. Launched by late chief minister J Jayalalithaa in 2013 to cater to the working classes and needy people, Amma Canteen or 'Amma Unavagam' is run by local bodies. These state-run canteens are providing meals at a very low cost. Besides, district collectors too have also been directed to create common kitchens to cook and distribute food to the destitute.
Chennai-based Sumanasa Foundation, a NGO that works
with young adults, has started a crowd-funding project with a aim to raise ₹20,000
in order to provide 100 kgs of rice, 50 kgs of dal, 45 litres of oil, 15 kgs of
salt, jeera, turmeric and chilli powder for the city’s community kitchens, run
by the Greater Chennai Corporation.
With help from the Jharkhand police and under the initiative of the District Administration and Round Table India, the state has launched about 342 community kitchens to serve the people while complying with social distancing.
The newly launched community kitchen near the Tribal Museum at Moharabadi is serving dinner and lunch. With the help of officials, 5000 people who have been identified will also be receiving free food packets. Plans to start four more community kitchens in Ranchi are in the making.
In Kolkata, community kitchens are providing food to people who are housed in the 27-night shelters run by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. In addition, the South 24-Parganas administration too has set up community kitchens at different locations to feed the needy. The Padmapukur Youth Club under the Baruipur Municipality has its own kitchen which manages feeding at least 500 people daily during the period of lockdown.
Students of Jadavpur University opened a community kitchen in the hopes of serving khichdi on a daily basis to at least 200 people rendered jobless. They have been mobilising the resources through crowd-funding.
Women self-help groups under Mission Shakti, which is under the Women & Child Development Department, Government of Odisha, are running community kitchens and making doorstep delivery of grocery and vegetables while maintaining social distancing norms, across the state. So far, this project has been running successfully in urban areas like Kendrapara, Cuttack, Berhampur and Koraput.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, which already has its base kitchens in Katihar, Rajendranagar, Sealdah, Howrah, Prayagraj, Jhansi, Kanpur, New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Sholapur, Bhusawal, Itarsi, Ahmedabad, Khurdha Road, Balasore, Vijaywada, Bengaluru, Hubli, Thiruvananthapuram, Chengalpattu, Katpadi and Mangalore, has come to the rescue. With the help of Railway’s Commercial staff, Railway Protection Force officials, NGOs and other volunteers, IRCTC’s kitchens are serving meals across the country. The Mumbai Base Kitchen has tied up with Salaam Mumbai, Robinhood Army, New Future Foundation, Mariyam Trust and Nanhi Kali.
Since the members of National Restaurants Association of
India, has the infrastructure, they are distributing about 10 million meals
in coordination with various authorities and NGOs. NRAI will be using the
kitchen facilities of major restaurateurs—Masala Library’s Zorawar Kalra, Blue
Sea’s Karan Kapur, Gritty Foods’ Shaival Chandra, Cafe Royal’s Pranav Rungta,
and several more—to cook meals and is relying on the state government for
distribution. Envisioned and activated by The Bohri Kitchen’s Munaf Kapadia, these
meals cost around ₹20
to ₹25 per head
and the financial resources for this initiative is partially crowd-funded.
Zomato’s Feeding India, a not-for-profit which was
launched last year, has initiated the ‘Feed the Daily Wager’ campaign under
which they aim to raise ₹500
crore and provide food to the families that are rendered jobless due to the
lockdown. Costing ₹500, ration kits containing wheat flour or rice, two types
of pulses and a bar of soap required for a family of five for one whole week,
will be distributed. The non-profit has also partnered with other NGOs and
social enterprises such as the Centre for Education and Health Research
Organisation in Delhi and Balancing Bits in Gurugram, to ensure that these kits
reach the deserving across multiple cities.