Lucknow, Apr 26 (PTI) A group of ‘kitchen warriors’ comprising cooks, food packagers and distributors is manning a community kitchen in Mathura which caters to around 12,000 to 15,000 people daily, bringing a ray of hope to those hit by the nationwide lockdown.
The initiative was initially started to provide food to labourers hired for various projects of the Uttar Pradesh Braj Teerth Vikas Parishad.
It eventually culminated into a community kitchen which has so far provided more than 3.64 lakh food packets to the needy during the ongoing lockdown in Mathura district.
Around 50 cooks, all of them women, 40 food packagers and distributors each run the show.
The Uttar Pradesh Braj Teerth Vikas Parishad was constituted in 2017 for preserving, developing and maintaining the aesthetic quality of Braj heritage.
Braj, also known as Brij or Brijbhoomi, is a region around Mathura-Vrindavan and is considered to be the ‘land of Lord Krishna’.
The area stretches from Mathura, Jalesar, Agra, Hathras and Aligarh to Etah, Mainpuri and Farrukhabad districts.
'In this kind of scenario, when people are actually scared and afraid and rightly so to venture out, there are not many people you will get to work even on payment, and work with discipline. The group (kitchen warriors) works from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm. The cooks make ‘poori’ from 8 quintals of wheat. And during the entire shift, social distancing is strictly adhered to,' UP Braj Teerth Vikas Parishad vice-chairman Shailja Kant Mishra told PTI.
'They (the cooks, distributors and those packaging the food) are warriors as they combine their energies to fight and control the menace. There are more than 50 cooks, 40 persons are engaged in packaging and 40 persons go to distribute the food. As many as nine vehicles are being used for distribution,' he said.
The food is distributed in Mathura district, he said.
Terming the community kitchen as a 'collaborative venture' entirely based on public cooperation, Mishra said, 'Initially, we had circulated four phone numbers and asked the public to inform us if anyone needs food. We were flooded with calls, then we put two young boys on the computer, and told them to note the names of callers, their address, and how many food packets they need, and then this information was passed on to the distribution vehicles.
“Now, things are streamlined and till April 24, we have distributed 3,64,894 food packets,” Mishra said proudly.
Most of the 'kitchen warriors' are residents of Vrindavan and practice all norms of social distancing while discharging their duties.
The 'kitchen warriors' started their journey on March 24 making 700 food packets. In the past one month, the demand has gone up and 12,000 to 15,000 people are catered to on a daily basis, the official said.
Another ‘kitchen warrior’ is Doodh Nath Yadav, a retired assistant engineer of the hydel department.
The UP Braj Teerth Vikas Parishad vice-chairman said Yadav is one of the diligent members of the team who begins his day at 4 am and takes the food packets to maximum number of people daily.
“Yadav spends close to 11-12 hours for the distribution of food packets to the maximum number of people,” Mishra said.
Meanwhile, UP minister Chaudhary Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary had sent a truck load of wheat to the community kitchen.
BJP MP from Mathura Hema Malini had also urged people to contribute oil and wheat to the kitchen.
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