When COVID-19 hit medical front-liners were the most to suffer from the crisis. INKED café in Alserkal launched an initiative to supply food to those impacted by the virus on a daily basis. Alserkal Avenue’s Pay It Forward campaign has now seen close to 12,290 meals being delivered since May. They turned their premises into a community kitchen to ensure the smooth running of the project.
“The campaign started overnight when Alserkal decided to launch Pay It Forward,” said Patrick Jarjour, co-founder of INKED.
“Every time there is an opportunity to communicate and make a difference through food, we’re happy to step in. We decided to open our kitchens for cooking meals with the existing staff and wanted to deliver 9,000 meals during the month,” he said.
The team now endeavors to deliver 10,000 meals in the month of June. Each meal box is priced at Dh25 and INKED has joined hands with the UAE Food Bank and Dubai Health Authority to deliver these meals to the needy as well as the front-liners.
It helped to have Alserkal Avenue, the arts hub of Dubai, to launch a Pay It Forward campaign that – in return for subsidizing ‘lease commitments’ for a quarter – encouraged its community members to help entities inside as well as outside Alserkal.
So, when INKED started this initiative, Green Art Gallery, for instance, decided to contribute substantially. Similarly, other players came forward.
A significant contribution demanded that the team produced 400 meals on an average per day.
Patrick said the process was rigorous at the beginning. “We had to test everyone and ensure no one was taking public transport and the place they stayed at was safe spaces. Once inside the premises, they had to coordinate and ensure the food packages would be ready by 1 pm when the Food Bank would send its trucks to collect the 400 meals.”
What began as a relatively small initiative has now resonated among a wider circle, as eminent chefs like Reif Othman, Izu Ani, Sahar Al Awadhi, Hattem Mattar, among others, join the team once a week to cook meals.
“It’s about what we love doing the most, which is not letting people go hungry. If the response continues to be good, we may do the initiative in July as well,” said Kenza.
Though Kenza and Patrick both say that they routinely receive direct requests from people in need, they are often directed to the Food Bank that takes care of the distribution.