The Story Of Friends Who Came Together As ‘Feeding Hands’ During The Lockdown
- IWB Post
- March 30, 2020
We salute citizens who’ve managed to think beyond their personal worries and have braved themselves up to defeat the hardships millions of people are facing during the time of COVID-19 fear epidemic.
Last week, Team IWB took a staunch decision to provide meals to daily-wage labourers who’ve lost their jobs and rental places during the lockdown. This is how we met FEEDING HANDS, a small community with a big heart that distributes free meals outside hospitals in Jaipur daily.
About two years ago, Mr Iqbal Singh Soni celebrated his birthday with those less privileged than him. He distributed hundreds of cooked food packets among those who helplessly waited in queues outside temples and hospitals. Inspired, his son Amardeep Soni and his friends – Pankaj Jain and Yogesh Narula, decided to take a leap of faith and turned this noble idea into a service-community that henceforth dedicated itself to providing free food to needy people every single day.
“We started with 100 meals a day and today, this number has increased ten folds. Every day, we have Feeding Hands’ van parked outside hospitals,” informs Pankaj.
The plan was simple yet needed courage to be executed. Until now, Feeding Hands was buying food from Annapurna Yojana, a Government of India sponsored scheme to provide highly subsidised food to millions of the poorest families, and distributing it among those who couldn’t even afford to buy a Rs. 5 meal.
Sadly, the Annapurna Rasoi had been shut down by the govt. after the Coronavirus spread was declared a pandemic across the globe. As a result, Feeding Hands has started preparing food in the houses of its founders, who’re extremely dedicated to the cause.
“We’re in no way going to stop our service. In fact, this is a crucial time when more and more people in distress require food to survive. As soon as the complete lockdown was announced, we managed to give away 300 packets on day one, followed by 700, 900, and more than a thousand boxes on consecutive days, covering areas from Kanota to Sanganer – basically the entire city of Jaipur in one day,” explains Pankaj.
Talking about the challenges the team faced in the initial days, Amardeep remembers, “The term ‘NGO’ has garnered some infamous perceptions in our country because some of them had used the donated funds for personal benefit in the past. Keeping this in mind, at Feeding Hands, we never begged anyone to contribute money.”
“Initially, we emptied the pockets that eventually inspired our friends, relatives, and neighbours to help us secure more stable funds. Today, if they have to celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries in a more meaningful way, they come to us with supplies for needy people. Sometimes, we also enjoy cake-cutting with our consumers,” adds Pankaj.
About following the hygiene and other health-care guidelines, Amardeep tells IWB, “Even before the Coronavirus fear came into the picture, we had this strict rule of washing hands before cooking and distributing the meals. In fact, the people who we donate to are asked to wash their hands with soap before start eating. It’s a compulsion. However, since it encompasses a huge consumption of water, we’ve now switched to using sanitizers.”
Until today, Feeding Hands has successfully fed more than 6,50,000 people across Jaipur, Rajasthan in the past 24 months. Isn’t this a breakthrough?
Yogesh thinks it’s their good fortune to be able to give back to the society that has helped them grow so far. “We’ve one life to live and I think now is the time to return that favour. Stop hoarding and start sharing. It’ll make you feel content from within, trust me.”
In case you’re wondering what’s inside these food packets, let’s make you meet the women working behind the scenes. We spoke to Mrs Gurdeep Soni, wife of Mr Iqbal Singh Soni, who once wholeheartedly supported her husband’s first noble move. During our small interaction with her, she shyly expresses, “The process of preparing dal and sabzi at Feeding Hands involves following the same recipes that we usually enjoy in our personal kitchens. There’s no difference, except that we add an extra tablespoon of love to them.”
For now, to provide food during the lockdown, the team is distributing kulchas with a bowl full of homemade tadka dal. The fresh kulchas are procured from Harvest Gold, a well-known Indian food company that produces multiple varieties of bread.
Every morning, the Feeding Hands family starts preparing food at 5 am and, by 10:30 am, hits the roads to hand over the packets of freshly-made food. During our conversation with them, they mentioned the immense support they’ve been receiving from the Jaipur Police that has not only given them the pass to move their food-van smoothly during the curfew but also takes food packets from them to distribute on its own. Isn’t this a beautiful example of working in unity for one’s community?
“Feedings Hands has taught us to grow into non-judgemental human beings. When we share food with these hungry people, we don’t judge them by their clothes or personalities. We strongly believe that anybody who’s coming to receive free food from us is in dire need of some sort. Hence, we never do the background-checks and serve with all our heart,” Amardeep signs off.
IWB Team has collaborated with ‘Feeding Hands’ to reach out to more and more people in the time of lockdown and share hope and love. If you know someone in need of food in Jaipur, please call 911 666 7999.
Learn more about IWB’s initiative #FeedtheHungry @indianwomenblog.
(Picture source: Feeding Hands Facebook)