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Goa food bank is ensuring no one goes hungry during Covid-19 lockdown

Hindustan Times, Panaji | ByGerard de Souza
May 03, 2020 12:16 PM IST

Street Providence is now preparing to be ready to be serving his expanded list of dependents right up to September.

The Covid-19 lockdown and shuttering of Goa’s tourism industry has brought an eerie silence across the once crowded beaches of North Goa.

While some rejoiced at Goa’s apparent return to past natural glory, and tourism operators are left wondering what fate has befallen on them, for Donald Fernandes it posed a different kind of problem.

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Street Providence Trust, a Food Bank Service that Fernandes and several volunteers run to help feed the poor, homeless and others in need found itself without its main source of food - the hotel and restaurant businesses - at a time when he needed it the most.

Left with mouths to feed spread across eight destitute homes that are being managed by the charitable organisation, and a full lockdown in force in Goa during the initial days that covered even the sale of essential items, Fernandes was at his wits’ end trying to arrange for supplies.

“On a normal day I used to receive around 1,500-2,000 kgs of food cooked from hotels and restaurants that would otherwise go to waste. This used to be distributed to around 5,000-6,000 people through the food bank that we run. When the lockdown came in force, there was no way to source food even for the 100-odd people that we were housing at our destitute homes,” Fernandes recalled.

But Fernandes’ organisation quickly shifted gears and expanded its operations and reach to distribute cooked food to those who were going hungry.

Thankfully for him, donors pitched in both and cash started flowing in. A bunch of volunteers began cooking the food themselves to be distributed across the state, including among labourers who were out of work and without food.

A caterer pitched in with 16 sacks of rice, three sacks of atta (flour) besides other stocks and help began coming in from other sources too. A bakery began offering 1,800 packets of sliced bread a day, and with restaurant kitchens being allowed to open, restaurants too offered to cook food to be distributed to the needy through the Street Providence network.

“It is unbelievable how many people including local Goans who are living on a hand to mouth basis. Many of whom have been working for industries and establishments that are now shut and are not going to open,” Fernandes says.

Fernandes and a few volunteers started Street Providence to function as a food bank three years ago with a view to act as a bridge between food that was being wasted by the hotel industry and those going hungry in Goa.

In its initial days, Street Providence set up a network of fridges and freezers where leftover food from parties and restaurants was collected and stored.

Fernandes started the food bank as “thanksgiving for having been blessed with a second child after a gap of seven long years” and began initially cooking food for around 50 families in the vicinity before expanding into a full fledged food bank.

With his network now geared up to the new normal, Fernandes is now preparing to be ready to be serving his expanded list of dependents right up to September through the lean monsoon months.

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