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Hazaribag Fights Hunger with Humanity

Crisis hit Hazaribag

Corona-crisis has created unprecedented challenges before the country, food insecurity being the exigent need of the hour with a historical migrant movement back to native villages. This comeback is not just limited to the migrant labour but inevitably touches all the poor households who have limited earnings in the form of daily wages or meagre remittances sent back home by the migrant earner.

Amidst these threatening times as India went into 21-day lockdown from 24th March, 2020, District Administration Hazaribag took a range of measures to combat the growing human disaster. Out of those, Community Kitchen is the most critical initiative with an aim to feed the poor including the stranded migrants, homeless, people without ration cards and people from other unprivileged sections. The idea was to ensure either cooked food or dry ration to every needy person in the district.

COVID19 spread hit the district harder when two out of 17 cases (as on 12th April, 2020) in Jharkhand were reported positive from Hazaribag. This also led to intensification of efforts to expand the reach of the feeding initiative to the COVID19 patients and suspected cases.

Response to Crisis: Community Kitchen

As a first step, a micro-level list was prepared at the ward level to estimate the number of beneficiaries who would be required to be fed through Community Kitchen initiative. After receiving the numbers, Deputy Commissioner Bhuvnesh Pratap Singh recognized the enormity of the need and called for people and organizations in a position to help. 

Many online meetings and discussions regarding materializing the initiative took place. Multiple stakeholders spanning across the civil society organizations, business owners and other major influencers in the district joined these virtual meetings. Tanveer Singh, Secretary, Indian Red Cross Society was the first one to come on board to mobilize more support. Various religious institutions, community groups and individual contributors also joined hands in support of the district initiative. As a result, Community Kitchen was made operational from March 28th, 2020.

To cite a few details, Gurudwara community volunteered to provide their kitchen space for cooking fresh meals for the needy. They also sponsored the first day meal that was provided to around 1500 people. Furthermore, Raunak and Rachit, owners of Frontiers Cafe (one of the famous cafes in the city) sent their cooks and serving staff. Sardar M.S Kalra, owner of Hemkunt Rice Mill along with four other millers also donated 150 bags of rice to the cause.

To name a few more contributors, Father Roshner, Principal St. Xaviers School sent food supplies worth Rs 1 lakh. Father Francis contributed ration worth Rs 3.5 lakh. Team Munna gave grocery items worth Rs 1 lakh. On behalf of Holy Cross Community, Sister Britto who runs a special school for HIV affected children contributed 500 packets of dry ration for 10 days. A detailed list of the donors is maintained at the district level to ensure transparency and to express gratitude once the situation is back to normal. 

Community Kitchen: Implementation

The kitchen activities start early in the morning with a great emphasis on hygiene practices. It is also ensured that safe social distance is maintained during food preparation and packaging. The food packets are scheduled to be ready by 1 PM every day for delivery. Thereafter, volunteers pack dry ration from 3 PM till evening every day in the same location.

Transportation and delivery was a challenge that was addressed collectively by the District Administration and Zila Gramin Vikas Samiti. Volunteers from the Samiti pick up food packets (both freshly prepared and dry) from the Gurudwara and deliver it directly to the beneficiaries. These vehicles are also used to procure ration from several donor.

Offerings of the Community Kitchen

The food menu ensures variety and consists of healthy and nutritious food items like dal khichdi, veg pulao, roti-sabzi etc in filling quantity. Lemon, oranges and other citrus fruits are added to the food packet on alternate days. Dry ration is also provided to beneficiaries who do not afford to have a second meal.

By far 4000 dry ration packets have been distributed across the district including 40 households who do not have ration cards. Since both the positive cases were reported from the Vishnugarh Block in the district, the whole block has been completely sealed and 2500 packets of dry ration were supplied in the block on immediate basis. Apart from Zila Grameen Vikas Samiti, 200 packets of cooked food meal are separately supplied by the district administration every day. Food supply is also made available to the COVID 19 patients and suspected cases as per hospital guidelines. 

In addition to the cooked food and dry ration, there is also a provision for food and sanitation kit that may last up to one week and is given on need basis. This kit contains the following:

  • 5 kg rice
  • 1 kg dal
  • 500 gm salt
  • 100 gm turmeric
  • Sattu packet
  • 2 bathing soaps
  • 1 soap to wash clothes
  • Cooking oil
  • Potatoes
  • 1 box of Glucon D

Besides this, 150 bottles of water are also being distributed on daily basis to people who do not have access to clean drinking water. Also 1500 biscuit packets, especially for children, are distributed every day.

Way Forward

Community Kitchen has been made possible due to district’s collective efforts and effective collaboration. These are the times when people have come together as a community to fight the menace of the virus.

Community Kitchen would soon expand its services to more reach more people through ‘Meal on Wheels’ initiative with an aim of delivering hot-cooked meals to the doorsteps of people. These joint efforts to feed the poor and needy will continue till the last day of lockdown. 

Source : Case Studies of Combating COVID-19 pandemic in Aspirational Districts

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