Friends unite for covid-19 food relief


With survival at stake during the ongoing lockdown, friends based in Saligao who are running a relief kitchen to feed the hungry under ‘Give for Goa’ initiative deserve a special mention,
says Shoma Patnaik
The unexpected food crisis in the state where many especially the daily wage workers, labourers, individuals living in PG digs and the elderly had no food to eat during the complete lockdown days shook the average Goan to the core.
Vegetables, milk, eggs, fish and daily essentials got suddenly scarce. But while lot of us scrambled to organise things for ourselves, six friends in Saligao got together to start a relief kitchen for the hungry.
The friends approached the north Goa deputy collector for travel permits and coordinated with the panchayats as well as the labour department to identity the needy hungry. With official permissions in place, the relief kitchen providing free food was up and running from April 1.
Friends Alton De’Souza, Chrys D’Souza, Saul Sanches, Shervin D’Silva, Rolino De Souza and Rachel Frias cook up average 850 meals per day. Their target is food for the hungry and so they provide one square meal to the needy who are badly hit by the lockdown. The kitchen operates out of a restaurant, There Hospitality Services in Parra, that is shut presently due to the corona pandemic virus.
Cooking starts at seven in the morning. The restaurant’s two staff and the friends jointly do the cooking. The food is ready by around 10.30 am after which it gets dispatched to several locations. Initially the food was provided to worker shanties in and around Vagator, Saligao, Arpora and Candolim. But for the past few days, since April 3 the food supply is going to further locations of Sankhalim and Karapur.
Says Chrys, “The first lockdown which was the Janata Curfew on March 23, left many residents scared. The next day although shops were open the government immediately announced a three-day lockdown period until March 26. It was soon followed by 21-day lockdown period until April 14 during which the state slipped into a full-blown food crisis. Looking at the desperate search for food and with no system in place to deal with the crisis we decided to speak to government officials and start relief measures.”
He adds that, the friends didn’t know what food to provide. But by going through UNICEF manuals and determining the right quantity of food to be eaten by an average individual they figured out that providing free food need not be a big pinch on the pocket. “We wanted to start early but getting the permission took us time after which we had to quickly organize to get things going,” adds Chrys.
Funds to buy vegetables, cooking oil, rice etc., was crowd sourced through an Instagram and Face Book page. Friends and families also chipped in with the funding and the purchase of ingredients. The food is dispatched in vessels and also in packages.
“While serving food we are careful about the hygiene, take precautions to protect ourselves from coronavirus,” say the friends. They add that, the two restaurant staff who reside in the restaurant are also not exposed to the virus as they live isolated.
Heartrending pictures of migrants fleeing during the coronavirus lockdown days are doing the rounds of social media these days. In Goa too, families in the unorganized sector have been badly hit by the lockdown although the news is not highlighted much, reveal the friends.
“In the first three days of the free kitchen we only provided meals to people below the poverty line. But discovered that there are Goan senior citizens who although financially independent were stuck without food because the maid did not come to work or they lived isolated lives. We started supplying to the elderly and also the poor who have no money to buy groceries. However majority of our food goes to the migrant workers,” say the friends.
“Most of the workers have gas at home or some sort of arrangement for cooking. They however have no money to buy provisions. Lately the labour department has started supplying groceries to these migrants and so we started to identify new hungry,” adds Chrys.
The friends plan to keep cooking meals for some more days until the lockdown lifts. “Presently we have funds and plan to keep cooking to utilise the funds. Once we figure out that our relief kitchen is not needed we shall stop accepting funds,” says Saul.
On regular days the six friends are busy with work. Alton, Sherwin and Rachel are restaurateurs, while Saul owns a graphic design studio. Rolino works in a ship and Chrys is a professional car racer who has a small manufacturing unit.
“Many people are in urgent need of cooked food during these lockdown days. Basically people who are living alone or people who have limited resources to buy supplies. We are glad that we have got together to help them,” say the friends.