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Covid-19: How the community managed kitchens to feed elderly rural folk

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on July 19, 2021

The initiative in Maharashtra’s villages helps feed the poor besides giving them a sense of belonging

Covid-19 came as a catastrophe to septuagenarian Sakhubai Dhakne. She has no family and children and earned a livelihood by doing odd jobs. During the Covid pandemic, nobody gave her any work and many like her are not in a position to do any work because of old age.

Arjun Yadav, who is in his late 70s, cooks for himself and somehow manages to survive. But with no work, he was a worried man, like the about 500 elderly people in 30 villages of Beed and Osmanabad districts in Maharashtra. Many of them are deserted by their children and have nobody to rely on.

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A few years ago, the people of Beed joined hands to start community kitchens for the elderly villagers and these kitchens proved life-savers during the pandemic. Free community dining houses known as Trupti Kitchens are providing two nutritious fresh meals per day to senior villagers and village committees are also providing medicines, clothing, shelter and other necessities.

Win-win for stakeholders

“There were many elderly who had no access to basic meals and many starved. We came up with the idea of a community kitchen in 2016 with 11 beneficiaries” said Aniket Lohiya, Secretary with Ambajogai-based Manavlok organisation in Beed district, which took the lead in the community kitchen project.

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The cost of two meals for every elderly person is ₹12,000 and the beneficiary contributes ₹200 every month. “The amount of ₹200 is to ensure that beneficiaries don’t feel that they are eating donated food and they have a sense of ownership. The contribution by the elderly is returned in the form of tiffins, blankets, and solar lamps during Diwali festival,” said Lohiya who added that more community participation is needed to reach poor elderly who are in need of food.

Poor needy women run these kitchens and are paid ₹40 per day per head. On average, a woman cooks for ten or more elderly people twice a day and earns between ₹3,000 and ₹4,000 per month. Once a year, women who run these kitchens get a mixer grinder, solar lamp, cooker, and other gifts as a bonus.

Covid-19 has destroyed the rural fabric and elderly members in the community have suffered the most. Mandatai Yadav says that, with age, her working capacity declined drastically and ultimately she was not able to earn much. The community is taking care of Mandatai and others. They will not have to leave their villages and homes to spend their last days at old-age homes. The community has not just given them meals twice a day but also dignity and a sense of belonging in these testing times.

Published on July 19, 2021

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