Undeterred by the challenges posed by the pandemic, an Indian-origin chef in Australia has been tirelessly providing free food to the homeless and needy people, including international students. Melbourne-based Daman Shrivastav (54), who grew up in Delhi and made his way to Australia after working in the Middle East for a while in the 1990s, said his drive to feed the homeless is not a new thing for him as he did similar work in Iraq during the Gulf War.
Daman is now raising funds for a food truck to enable him to deliver meals to them. "This pandemic may not be like the Gulf War, but the stories of people trapped inside and scared to go out remain the same. The situation is more or less the same as people have lost jobs and thousands of livelihoods have been affected," he said.
Daman Shrivastav said food is everyone's right and everybody should have access to food. “I have seen poverty. I have been homeless in Australia for a couple of days during my early days here. The feeling, which I had experienced that time, prompted me to take this initiative,” he said.
Shrivastav, who had fed hundreds of people for free in Baghdad during the Gulf War, is now doing the same in Melbourne for those who cannot afford to buy their own food amid the pandemic.
He is also feeding international students, many of whom are finding it hard to sustain in an alien country in this time of crisis. Shrivastav prepares the meals in his humble home kitchen and delivers them around the city in his car.
"I used to cook 150 meals a day in my home kitchen with my wife and daughter when the pandemic broke out and distributed them to the homeless in my car," he said.
Shrivastav said he is getting a lot of support from the locals. “In fact, a local council here has offered us their community kitchen to prepare meals, given the kind of space it needs," he said. Shrivastav has also set up an online page to raise funds for a food truck to deliver free meals. “I have so far raised 13,000 Australian dollars in the last four weeks. We are aiming to collect 70,000 Australian dollars for the food truck," he said. Many locals also donate groceries on a weekly basis. Daman Shrivastav said he would continue the initiative even after the pandemic is over.