Mag Events,Feature l by HI Magazine l 19 Aug 2022     - 71

Stepping upto the plate


MEET THE COMMUNITY MEMBERS WHO ARE RUNNING COMMUNITY KITCHENS TO FEED THE VULNERABLE

Words: Amrita Hapuarachchi

Due to the economic crisis and high  cost of living, many low-income  families are finding it difficult to have  a single meal let alone three balanced  meals. This has given rise to community kitchens initiated by Sri  Lankans around the island.  According to Moses Akash De Silva, Head of  Voice Community Kitchen, “Nearly 5 million Sri  Lankans are currently in need of food assistance.  Latest surveys reveal that 86% of households are  using at least one coping mechanism such as  reducing food intake and skipping meals.  The cost of food inflation is 60% +...” Voice  Community Kitchens are currently functioning  in nine areas across Sri Lanka, providing 1300+  meals a day. 
 It is not just underprivileged households that  need assistance during this economic crisis. Community Meal Share, run by Nadeeka Jayasinghe, her partner Gyan Weerakone and friend Fazeena Rajabdeen started this recently to assist with schools, hospitals and those in fuel queues.


Inspired by Community Meal Share, Tina  Edward Gunawardhana, along with two friends  through their charity Singitha Sarana established in 2001 to educate financially disadvantaged children started the Nugegoda Children’s Meal Club. They initiated the first meal for 178 students at Revatha Vidyalaya and  Wijerama Vidyalaya and this went viral on the Nugegoda Then and Now Facebook page. Tina explains “For years we were  working with children in Kantale and other rural  areas but when we saw our children going hungry  on our doorstep in Nugegoda we felt that as a community we had  to step up and help those that needed it most.”  


Cricketing hero Roshan Mahanama has also thrown his weight behind these projects. He is involved not only in Community Meal Share but also the distribution of dry rations around the country. He  says, “To engage in social activities, it is not just  money. 


It is time, energy, and sharing of knowledge and your network to help someone.  So it is not a difficult thing for anyone to indulge in this.”  


He adds, “Sri Lanka was within the first 5 countries in the giving index. This tells you  what type of people we are, we have the heart to give”.  


As one can imagine, running something like  this is a full time job but amazingly, all these  individuals already have full time jobs and  studying commitments. “A lot of work goes  behind the scenes, especially with the school meal  programmes which operates in Badulla, Jaffna and Colombo. The Community Meal Share  programme  has  heavy logistic operations as we deliver food on a daily  basis more towards the evenings. We also send  eggs and yogurt to state sector hospitals.  Co-ordination of this work can take up a lot of our  time. We get support from volunteers to provide refreshments for fuel queues.” Nadeeka says.


     Explaining how his operation runs Moses says “We start preparation work at 9 am and  start cooking by 10.30 am. We serve food by 12.30.”  


The Nugegoda Children’s Meal Club has two  cooks who provide the meals and they purchase the dry rations from Pettah to ensure they save more money so that they can  feed more.


Keeping up with the increasing costs and  shortage of ingredients is a challenge, they all  agree. Moses explains “It is  challenging  with the high prices so we try and stick with the  basics and gather and store things where we can.  For example rice, dhal and soya, we save  money and storage”. Being a nurse, nutrition is very important to Nadeeka so she makes sure the  meals are also well balanced nutritionally, so carbohydrates, proteins and fats are balanced.  She also mentions they have a few suppliers, so when one is not available to find certain items, the others will step in and they usually can fulfil the  gap.  

 

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