Community kitchens set up in Kerala to cater to the weaker sections with the aim of ensuring no one goes hungry during COVID-19 lockdown have ramped up their operations and are distributing 250,000 to 280,000 food packets every day, the state government said on Friday.
A huge portion of the food packets was being given free of cost to the weaker sections, including migrant labourers, homeless people and the destitute rehabilitated under the Ashraya integrated project, National Health Mission (Arogya Keralam) said.
Each pack of lunch comprises rice, two dishes and a pickle and delivered for those making advance booking.
The community kitchens are also preparing breakfast and supper. While dosa/idli with sambar will be available in the mornings, it is chappati and curry (vegetable) during nights. These packets cost between Rs 20 (£0.21) and Rs 30, but a vast majority of them are being distributed free of cost.
The kitchens, being run by the local self-governing bodies in association with the states poverty-alleviating Kudumbashree project involving women, have been functioning for the past fortnight, adopting social distancing and other safety measures, Arogya Keralam said in a release.
Till Friday afternoon, community kitchens have cooked and distributed a whopping 3.3 million food packets, it said.
The government took the initiative as a mission to ensure that the vulnerable sections, left jobless due to the lockdown, get food till the lockdown is relaxed.
“Every panchayat (Kerala has 941 in total) will have a phone number to which calls can be made to avail the food from the nearest community kitchen. None should go hungry,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said while announcing the initiative on March 25.
Ration Distribution, Community Kitchens | April 2nd, 2020
13.61 lakh persons have bought their ration share today
1325 community kitchens are active
2,88,069 individuals were served meals today
2,63,423 of these servings were free
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) April 2, 2020
Cooperative societies and voluntary organisations also form part of the all-Kerala mission, whose army of volunteers called “Arogya Sena” (Health Army), work as members of local WhatsApp groups through which they share information regarding the needy persons. The members also deliver food. The first set of such kitchens began functioning on March 26, a day after Vijayan announced the plan to provide free food packets for the needy at their doorsteps.
The other sections of the public, too, can get the food by paying a nominal Rs 20 per packet plus Rs 5 for delivery. With civic bodies directly responsible in the management of the community kitchens, the groceries are being provided by the state civil supplies department.
Maintaining social distancing, essential to avert any spread of the deadly coronavirus, the volunteers are busy with their daily service at such cookhouses that total 1,255 across the states 14 districts.
Of these, 179 function under municipal corporations.
Rising to the occasion, Kudumbashree has also separately serving budget meals through its “Janakeeya” hotels (peoples restaurants). Today, 238 of them are serving the people.
“Going by the budget allocation for the current fiscal, we had anyway plans to open such eating joints serving meals for Rs 25. Owing to the lockdown, we have brought the price down to Rs 20,” says S Harikishore, Director of the Kudumbashree, which has been granted Rs 236 million for the mission.
Authorities ensure that the community work no way upsets the implementation of social distancing, which is essential to check spread of coronavirus.
The cooking personnel and those assisting them maintain the requisite gap while working.
Extra care was being taken to guard against any transmission of the virus, officials said.