For COVID-hit families, food is a call away

Cooked food and water apples to be sent as part of COVID meal by Bhargavi Bijjam.

Cooked food and water apples to be sent as part of COVID meal by Bhargavi Bijjam.

The surge in COVID-19 cases in Hyderabad over the last few weeks has prompted citizens to step up and help those affected. Some offer to pick up and drop essentials and medicines, some collate information on tele-consulting facilities, hospital beds and oxygen cylinders, while others are helping with day-to-day food requirements.

Tiffin centres, cloud kitchens and home chefs have been cooking more, to ensure that affected families get their daily intake of nutritious meals. Third-party delivery services such as Swiggy Genie, Dunzo and Rapido are pressed into service to deliver packages to different localities in the city.

Anil Agarwal of Sai Kailash Dhaba in Attapur has been receiving an average of 100 orders per day for lunch and dinner. “My wife, friends and family are helping to keep this service running. We are taking orders for lunch and dinner and deliver in Attapur, Malakpet, Koti, Narsingi, Shamshabad and Nalanda Nagar,” he says. The dhaba began catering to pandemic-affected families in 2020 and the demand has gone up, with the recent spurt in cases. A 14-day lunch package costs approximately ₹4000 and lunch and dinner packages cost ₹6000.

Bhargavi Bijjam, an IT professional, has begun cooking for two or three COVID-19 families in her neighbourhood, each day. It’s her way of giving back with gratitude for the help she received in 2020 when her parents tested positive for the coronavirus: “I could focus all my attention on doing the needful to ensure my parents recover soon. Friends pitched in by sending us breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

Insta chefs

On Instagram, Bhargavi invited like-minded people to do their bit in their neighbourhoods through the initiative #COOK (Collective Opportunity of Kindness). She and her friends have been helping by supplying food, as well as medicines and other essentials for elders living on their own in the city. To ensure that the carbon footprint is on the lower side, Bhargavi crowd pooled disposable meal boxes that would have been accumulated in households with time.

Similarly, in Secunderabad, Pooja Vijayakumar began looking out for elders in her locality who needed help, when the pandemic began. Now, she cooks meals for COVID-19 affected families in her locality with the help of her aunt: “I do it as a voluntary service and don’t charge. There have been instances of families wanting home cooked-food for their children while one of the parents is recouping. Some hesitate to avail free meals and offer to pay. I ask them to pay as they wish since all I am doing is cooking more of what I make for my own family. How tough is it to cook two more cups of dal or rice that we make for ourselves?” she asks.

Cloud kitchens

Cloud kitchen units, which so far relied on food delivery apps to keep their business going, have shifted their attention to catering to pandemic-affected families as the demand continues to rise. Divya Sagar Mallela, the proprietor of Telugu Inti Bhojanam in Kukatpally, says they have two chefs and others helping cook and pack 50 lunch and dinner packages each day: “Some families enquire per day packages, which works out to ₹499, then they ask for seven or 14-day period. Each lunch package contains about half a kg of rice and 10 varieties of accompaniments, which is sufficient for a small family.” With the help of third-party delivery services, they cater to KPHB, Miyapur, Chandanagar, Madinaguda, Bachupally, Kondapur and nearby areas.

(For restaurants or home chefs to help tide over the recovery period, check www.covidmealsforindia.com for food services in different cities.)

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Printable version | May 22, 2022 10:26:30 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/for-covid-hit-families-food-is-a-call-away/article34460337.ece