“Eat as much as you want, give as much as you can” – this is the motto that is inspiring a restaurant in Kerala’s Alappuzha district to strive towards achieving the goal of a hunger-free state.
Janakeeya Bhakshanasala (The People’s Restaurant), an offshoot of Snehajalakam, a pain and palliative care unit associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has started serving quality meal for the general public free of cost since March 3.
“If you are hungry, you can come and eat here. There won’t be a cashier at the counter to settle your bill. Your conscience is the cashier. You can drop whatever amount you want to, kept at the box on the counter. Those who cannot afford to give anything can leave content, after a full meal,” said Thomas Isaac, state’s finance minister, in a Facebook post.
In his budget speech, Isaac had stated that the hunger-free project started in Alappuzha will be emulated across Kerala, drawing attention to the fact that there are people who struggle to even get one square meal a day.
Situated by the Alappuzha-Cherthala National Highway near Pathirapally, the restaurant has been equipped with a modern steam kitchen which can prepare food for up to 2000 people, which has been established at the cost of Rs 11.25 lakhs. The two-floor eatery has a waste management plant and a water treatment plant, in addition to an elevator to bring the food upstairs. “Resources for setting all this up has been mobilised through the CSR funds of Kerala State Financial Enterprises,” Isaac said.
The restaurant walls are also adorned with the artworks of artists from the Harmony Art Group based in Pathirappally. Customers can purchase vegetables from the adjacent organic farm set up in the 2.5 acre land to produce vegetables required for the restaurant.
“It is expected to meet the day to day expenses of the restaurant by getting people in the area to sign up voluntarily to donate money for food in commemoration of their special occasions. On February 4, 1576 such voluntary forms to the tune of 22,76,000 were collected from 10 wards in the area surrounding Snehajalakam,” Isaac observed.
Snehajalakam, along with other pain and palliative care societies in the region under the guidance of CPM, is involved in various voluntary services. They are providing food free of cost to around 400 people in the four panchayats of Mararikulam South, Muhamma, Mannanchery, and Aryad. Besides providing food, activists update doctors about the bedridden patient through a mobile app and carry out his instructions for their care.
A project on similar lines was launched by the Ernakulam district administration last month. Under Numma Oonu, a novel project aimed at eradicating urban hunger, a total of 900 coupons have been distributed so far. Under the free meal initiative, those who cannot afford to buy lunch can come and collect the coupons from designated centers and use it to purchase a quality meal from the designated hotels in Kakkanad and at the railway station.