24/7 Food Seva
The genesis of the 24/7 Food Seva comes from Sai Aashraya’s volunteers interacting with people who are left starving and crying in pain with nowhere to go and with no one to help them out most of the time. These are people who live in appalling conditions in the poorest areas in Bangalore. Well, for those who haven’t seen this side of Bangalore, it will be a shocker when these really hungry and desolate people narrate their daily battles for survival. In times when this city is said to be “growing”, the fact is that the lives of these people is only getting harder. As we surveyed the areas for the new project, we were left in tears seeing the plight of these people who are today left with no one to care for them. Open drains, water logging, mosquitoes and flies flying all around, wires hanging down from electric poles perilously close to children who run around freely, people sleeping hungry on the pavements groaning in pain, little children crying in hunger in the night. These are some of the sights we saw in these slums where we decided to serve food 24/7.
The truck drivers plying across Our Country everyday round the clock, meet with accidents which occur due to tiredness when drivers fall asleep. The drivers are often hungry and some driving from long distances get really drowsy during the night hours. Finding fresh food and tea during these hours is really hard. Some of the truck drivers aren’t able to afford a good meal even once a day. The truck drivers and the other passengers on the road would be safe if the truck drivers driving those huge vehicles are well fed and refreshed making them stay up in the wee hours of the night. We decided to take up this project and decided to give it our all to make a difference to these lives by first making them eat just like us; 3 times a day, for only when hunger is satiated, change actually begins.
Why we do
A team of 10 incredible cooks in two teams of 5 each are cooking food round the clock with one team replacing the other fortnightly. Sai Aashraya has a rented kitchen which has been modified to cater to a large population. Some of the best chefs pour their Love into every meal cooked and Love therefore is the main ingredient always. Volunteers take turns and participate in the preparation and the loading of the food into Sai Aashraya's Food Truck as well.
The schedule is a blissful one. A schedule that will see smiles 24/7. The kitchen that doles out the most wholesome and tasty meals is spic and span and the food is cooked in the most hygienic conditions. Provisions, vegetables, milk and curds etc. are sourced fresh every day. The schedule begins with breakfast serving from 7:30 am as part of the Breakfast Seva project which today has expanded to 700 children from 5 schools and then moves to lunch serving in one school between 12:30pm - 1:30pm, and from 12 pm to 3:00 pm to the slum dwellers in and around north east Bangalore particularly the slums in and around Banaswadi. One of the teachers in the school noticed 3 siblings sleeping in the cold outisde shivering and then came to one of the volunteers and spoke about the situation and requested that we serve lunch in the school. The serving began almost immediately. The children were given lunch boxes by Sai Aashraya after seeing them bring polythene covers and paint boxes to take lunch. Dinner serving begins at 8 pm in slums not too far from the lunch Seva venue. The people whom we get to serve are mostly manual scavengers, daily wage labourers who find it hard to get a good meal before the sleep with all the tiredness from working extremely hard throughout the day. The parents also get to spend quality time with the children during the dinner Seva as they don't have to go searching for firewood or cardboard boxes to cook food or a hotel from where they would have to buy food at exorbitant prices. From midnight to daybreak there is food, tea, and snacks serving for all truck drivers who are plying all around Our Country. So that’s the cycle. The wheels of Love are going around filling hungry stomachs with food cooked with Love.
What we do
At the stroke of midnight on the 23rd of November, 2017, the Seva began with Truck Drivers being the first to grace the new project. The next morning saw the 5 new schools’ children start their new journey with Breakfast Seva which would make sure that they would never be hungry during the day. An average of 2500-3000 people are fed everyday with wholesome and tasty food. All the people eat happily with a smile on their face not because the food is served to them free of cost, but because they are filled with Love every time they eat;every morsel of food is filled with only Love. The menu varies every day and repeats only once in a fortnight. The menu for the breakfast remains the same. The afternoon plate will comprise of rice, sambar, rasam, sabzi, papad, and buttermilk. On Mondays & Thursdays a special sweet is served in the afternoon. The Dinner Seva will serve chapatis, north Indian kurma, variety rice, and also plain rice with rasam. The Midnight Seva will have variety rice, kurma, chapattis, tea & snacks. The impact is something heartwarming. The people in the slums are now free of the need to battle for food on a daily basis and are so happy and relieved. Sai Aashraya's Food truck has been modified to carry not just food but clothing and other essentials as well. The volunteers pack all the clothes which are either new or almost new (They are washed and ironed) and then distribute them to people as and when the need arises. The Food Truck has become a symbol of Love & Joy and always gets a warm welcome everywhere.
There is a festive atmosphere during every single meal session. We sit together and have food while discussing on what to do next. The people often come up with suggestions that are truly mind blowing. The children now go to bed smiling and are free from the pangs of hunger that used to leave them crying in pain, the one pain that mankind has to remove by working together. The truck drivers say that they feel elated and relieved to see a project of this sort being done selflessly to alleviate their sufferings. We meet Paajis, Mamas & Mamis, thalaivas, Chachas & Chachis, Dadajis and Dadimaas from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, From Gujarat to Arunachal, who are now part of our family.
The 24/7 Food Seva is a joy to behold for the young and the old, and we at Sai Aashraya celebrate this festival of joy every day with Love & Joy multiplying manifold every moment. Food is just an excuse to sit down and communicate with all these people and that results in transforming lives. We truly are living life now which otherwise we would have been going through. We have served food for 24 lakh people as of April 2020.