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Home kitchen provides food relief in Covid epicenter HCMC

By Quynh Tran   July 15, 2021 | 07:45 pm PT
Volunteers hand out 1,000 free meals every day to the poor and low-income families across Ho Chi Minh City, the nation's largest coronavirus hotspot.

For half a month, the mobile food support group has been roaming the streets of HCMC to distribute free meals to the poor and those in lockdown areas. This activity is organized by the charity group "Bep Yeu Thuong" (Kitchen For Love).
"In the past, the group also distributed rice at a designated location. But it was hard to follow social distancing guidelines since too many showed up so we changed to this format," said Nguyen Van Luu, the group's representative.


From 7 a.m. each day, about 20 people start cooking at a house in Hiep Binh Chanh Ward of Thu Duc City, also the group's headquarters.These motorbike taxi drivers, shippers, factory workers and others all volunteered to cook and feed the community.


Preliminary processing, cooking and preparing have to be completed before 9 a.m. for distribution.
"In the beginning, our group spent around VND15 million ($655) every day on buying food and cooking. But with the help of more benefactors, we manage to cook up more free meals," Luu said.


In the kitchen, Huynh Thi Thang constantly fries fish, making sure the savory dish is available to accompany soup and vegetables.
"I worked as a kitchen assistant and now I'm unemployed. So I've been volunteering here for nearly two months now. Here, I specialize in cooking, in return I get to eat for free. The group also pays volunteers VND50,000 per day," she said.


Every day, the kitchen prepares 700 to 1,000 meals to be distributed to the poor.
Each serving ensures enough vegetables and different sources of protein, changed on a daily basis. The group also hands out face masks or fruit and drinking water with each serving.


Currently, the group has five people working on food delivery.
Over the past two weeks ago, at exactly 9 a.m., Dinh Thang (R) comes to pick up the rice, puts it in a top-box storage compartment and heads out to distribute the meals. Each insulated container can hold up to 60 servings.
"I worked as a security guard before the company closed down, and also have to live off donated meals. Seeing what this charity group is doing is meaningful, while owning a motorbike, I joined to help. Since I can't contribute money, I would like to use my labor as a form of support. I hope poor children have a full stomach every day," he said.


Every day, Thang and other members hit the streets, inns, quarantined areas, and hospitals to offer those in difficulty a meal.
Crossing Binh Loi Bridge, Binh Thanh District, the volunteer quickly stopped to offer a serving to Tam who works as a motorbike taxi driver.
"I can save VND20,000 since I don't have to worry about buying lunch now. Thank you so much," Tam said.


Thang delivers lunch boxes to a resident in a blockaded area.
The work of the volunteers end at 1 p.m., when all meals are distributed. A representative of the charity group said "mobile rice motorbikes" not only serve during social distancing but will remain after the epidemic is over to help those in need.

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