A charity feeding millions of poor children in India has recently expanded its focus to put an end to holiday hunger in England by distributing free meals to those facing food insecurity.
The charity recently opened its first planned kitchen of three in Watford, a town northwest of London. Serving hot vegetarian dishes cooked for less than £2 ($2.60), the charity uses a model developed to feed the hungry in big urban areas such as Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The first meals were dispatched to a school in north London amid a recent government decision not to fund free school meals this half-term.
Cauliflower cheese and mixed vegetable pasta are among the main dishes cooked by chefs working for the Akshaya Patra charity, which produces 1.8 million meals for schools each day in India. The purpose-built kitchen has been designed to cook 9,000 meals a day.
“Desperate measures for desperate times,” said Kate Bass, the primary school’s headteacher, “Even families that were managing before aren’t managing now.”
As reported by The Guardian, the charity is preparing to set up similar kitchens in other towns as well and expects to keep delivering free meals to schools during the Christmas holidays.
“It might seem strange to some that this model is imported from India,” said Bhawani Singh Shekhawat, the chief executive of Akshaya Patra. “But we are bringing a tested model from a country that has dealt with this problem with speed and at scale.”
The move has been particularly welcomed by parents, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet amidst the pandemic. Recipient Atika El Mir, a mother of two, said the money was tight because her husband has had less work due to COVID. “Everything is hard times now,” she said. “This is a good idea. It is so kind.”