Dal rice, khichdi is what comes to mind when one thinks of charity meals. But, what if we tell you there are a bunch of spunky teenagers who are cooking gourmet food and distributing it among the underprivileged? One might find it hard to believe, but that’s exactly what The Cathedral & John Connon School student Dev Dalmia, 15, along with his friends, is doing. Masterchef4many was started by Dev when he was in Grade 8. At the time, Dev along with his friends would occasionally use restaurant kitchens to make fancy food like burger, pasta, cookies, etc. and distribute it amongst the underprivileged children in the city. The motive was not just to feed them or satisfy their hunger, but to add some joy in their lives.
When the lockdown was imposed, the plight of the migrant workers and the underprivileged in the city motivated Dev to start the The Good Food Drive. And, on May 17, with the help of an independent volunteer, Sumeet Gade, he distributed around 20 boxes of khichdi to the slum dwellers under the Mahalaxmi bridge.
Speaking about the drive Dev says, “We started it during the lockdown because it was such a sad time for everyone. We wanted to do something to bring happiness and help nourish underprivileged children who were not able to get normal meals. So after thinking about it for almost a month we got a delivery partner and started it in May. The inspiration came from the fact that these kids are going through so much worse than us and the need to help them.”
The campaign soon became bigger when Dev’s friends, Diya Bhageria and Tanisha Laud and their mums joined in. “When the initiative started, Tanisha and I were brainstorming with Dev and we came up with a plan to get the word out. We told our teachers, friends...We all like food and cooking and we realised while many of us were grumbling about the pandemic and the lockdown there were people in worse situation than us. I wanted to not only fill their stomach, but give them an opportunity to be exposed to something they have never eaten before. We cook fancy food for them to give them a taste of and share our passion for food,” says Diya.
As the word spread, within a span of few days they were up from 20 boxes to 100 meals a day, with more friends coming on board, dishing out restaurant-style cuisine like hakka noodles, pasta and more. But, as the drive got bigger, it became difficult for these homechefs to manage the distribution. That’s when Dev got in touch with volunteers of Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care to help them with the distribution. The volunteers of Shrimad Rajchandra Mission, inspired by Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai , were already conducting the Circle of Love & Care drive for providing meals to the migrants and ration to daily wagers. They readily agreed to become the distribution partner, picking up meals from several homes and dropping them off at orphanages, children shelters and children in needy settlements.
“Usually, meals given in charity are simple dal chawal or at the most pulao. However, here the meals were no less gourmet since the children were preparing what they would want to have themselves. The children wanted the meals to be wholesome and good for the mind, body and soul, thus, all meals were Jain. Each meal was packed in individual container alongwith a message and a cookie or chocolate bar. The joy the children felt in receiving these beautifully packed meals is indescribable. For the young chefs, the happiness on seeing the pictures shared daily by the volunteers with the delighted faces of the recipient children as they dug into a bowl of pasta or bit into a burger was satisfaction enough,” says Vinod, one of the several volunteers of the Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur.
By the end of June, the young chefs and their families had cooked and distributed around 12,000 meals, with 1800 meals on June 30 itself.
Now that online schools have started how are the children managing studies and the drive? “We wake up early, we cook, send the food packets to the security and someone then pick them up. We do this now once a week, usually on Sunday when we are quite free,” says Tanisha.
Apart from the trio, there are several other young chefs who actively participated in the drive. Like, Avantika Swali, who baked 130 cupcakes on a single day; Raahil Vassa cooked hundreds of meals with his parents, Kajal and Hardik; Jai and Veer Karwa helped their mom Vindhya, a food blogger, pack 50 meals every day; Aleina Gandhi cooked pasta and sent 100 meals with her mom, Vasu, on her birthday; Vivaan and his mother Neeharika (who was also a part of the distribution team) cooked themselves and got many friends to join the drive.
The drive will now happen once a week till December, with the hope of sharing love for food with underprivileged children as much as possible.
Want to help?
Provide 10/20/50/any number of home cooked meals (every or any sunday) for as long as you like. You cook. We pick up. Contact free.
Contact: WhatsApp Anu Dalmia on 9820167166.