The pandemic has been giving a tough time to everyone around the globe. The ‘back to normal’ seems like a distant dream. The central as well as the respective state governments are leaving no stone unturned to wipe out this virus. In such times, some communities are setting extraordinary examples by showing that unity is strength and together we all can give a tough fight to the virus. Nagaland’s Bethel Kitchen is one such example.
The Bethel Kitchen is an initiative by the Kohima District Task Force (DTF) and supported by the Kohima Baptist Pastors’ Fellowship. It is a community kitchen that has been providing food to the inmates, officials and workers of the quarantine centres in the district including quarantine centres at Meriema, K. Badze and I.G. Stadium. The kitchen has been running at the Nagaland Baptist Church Council Convention Centre in Kohima. It has been catering to more than 1500 people in quarantine centres on a daily basis.
The kitchen started operating in the beginning of June. At this time, the state started witnessing heavy inflow of returnees from outside the state with the relaxations provided by the government.
This community Kitchen comprises of volunteers close to 100 who would work regularly from dawn to dusk. Their aim was to provide good quality and healthy food to returnees who are in institutional quarantine centres in Kohima. The idea of a community kitchen like this came up as a result of the increase in the number of returnees in the district and scarcity of food caterers in the district.
In the beginning stages of migration, 5 catering parties were responsible for catering food to the quarantine centres. However, all of them backed out over the course of time due to certain issues. There were also some other parties who wanted to support but were not given permission by their respective localities.
Hence, the inception of Bethel Kitchen took place as an alternative option to cater food to the quarantine centres of Kohima District. The kohima Baptist Pastors’ Fellowship played a major role in the running of this community kitchen. Most of the manpower have been provided by the fellowship. At this situation manpower is very essential as a lot of people are reluctant to come out and work due to the risk of being infected. Because of this very reason, a lot of food outlets across Northeast especially in Guwahati have been forced to shut down.
The community kitchen is looked after by a committee which is headed by Limanenla, ADC at the Commissioner’s Office of Kohima. She is also the convener of Bethel Kitchen. There is proper work division among the staff, starting right food packaging, food delivering as well as the cleaning.
Right in the morning, the volunteers would sit in groups making sure to maintain the mandatory social distance and start peeling vegetables. Another team will be involved in chopping the vegetables after properly washing them. The ones with the better culinary skills are put forward for cooking the meals. Once the meals are cooked, another team of volunteers would start packing them. The volunteers wear hand gloves while packing the food items. The number of packets vary depending on the number of people in the quarantine centres. The packaged food is then transferred to vehicles which are then delivered to the quarantine centres in Kohima. The vehicles used for delivery are sanitized on a daily basis. While the food is out for delivery, the cleaning team takes up their brooms and mops to clean the area which is quite a hard task.
Working day and night is a tough job. Hence the volunteers are assigned on a rotational basis. The work begins at around 4 in the morning and goes on till about 8pm. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner – the kitchen is responsible for providing 3 meals a day. The team aims to provide
balanced food to the returnees. Hence, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food are included in the menu. The team also make sure that the food reaches the people in time.
Many church organizations have been coming forward to lend a helping hand to the workers of Bethel Kitchen who have been working relentlessly every day. Senso Telongjem Kohima (USTK) was one of the first to step forward. They sponsored as well as volunteered for a whole day. Similarly, Chakhesang Baptist Church too rendered their help for a day to Bethel Kitchen by cooking and packing the meals.
The managing authorities of the kitchen also expressed concern over expansion of the kitchen and manpower. The expansion of area is necessary so that the social distancing can be maintained.
Bethel Kitchen has emerged as a great helping hand to the state government during this time of crisis. It is only when we all unite, we can stand tall and strong against something as deadly as Covid-19.