Soul Food with Meals for All

In July this year, Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan caused a bit of a furore when he declared a ban on unofficial soup kitchens within a 2-kilometre radius of the city center. Many took to social platforms like Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter to express their disappointment and anger caused by what was perceived as an immoral and insensitive directive. By noon of the same day, memes and other Internet forms of expression cluttered newsfeeds and timelines across the Malaysian cybersphere. 

But for restaurateur, Ramesh Vadiveloo, it turned out to be a spur for him to give back to society.  The episode brought to mind the concept of “suspended coffees” practiced across Europe – which is a pay-it-forward scheme that encourages patrons to purchase a cup of coffee in advance while purchasing one for themselves. Anyone in need of a warm cuppa, from a college student to a homeless man living on the street, just needs to walk in and enquire if there are any available.

Inspired by the idea of suspended coffees, Ramesh has not only initiated a similar programmer but expanded on it, which is to offer an entire meal for free to anyone who needs it, not just a cuppa. Called “Meals for All”, the effort has roped in various restaurants to assist with the operations of soup kitchens.  

“There are many people I know who want to their part for charity but don’t know how because they feel their contributions would be too small and insignificant, said Ramesh, who also manned a stall selling meals alongside his usual Mexican fare at a Ramadhan Bazaar nearby his restaurant.

“They can’t afford to donate large sums of money to charity and do not the sense in buying just one tin of canned food. With Meals for All, anyone from a college student to a business owner can do their part for the poor.” Which is in keeping with a quote from Mother Theresa that sits prominently on the cover of Meals for All’s Facebook page: “If you can’t feed 100 people, feed just one.”

Under the scheme, a single meal costs RM7, “What I’m trying to achieve is to allow individuals at any level to help. If they can only afford RM7, they purchase one meal and if they can afford more, they can purchase more meals,” Ramesh says, adding that they are also welcome to volunteer to help prepare the meals.

Apart from his stall at the Ramadhan bazaar, Meals for All has also opened up stalls in various bazaars around the Klang Valley and worked hand-in-hand with others to raise money for the cause, such as popup Showroom, FreedomFilmFest, Dapur Jalanan Kuala Lumpur, MAHSA University, IACT College and the organizers of SHELAH, to name a few. 

Within the first month of operation, Meals for All managed to raise enough money for more than one thousand meals for the homeless and urban poor, “One thousand meals does seem like a very large number but a single night of food distribution for Kechara’s Soup Kitchen involves up to 800 meals.”

Freshly prepared Meals for All

Ramesh, who runs local Mexican restaurant, Frontera – Sol of Mexico located at Jaya One in PJ revealed that last month, Meals for All also reached out to their supporters for donations of mooncakes to be included in the meal packs, to give the less fortunate a sweet treat in conjunction with the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Donations may be made by interested parties via online pledges on the Meals for All Facebook page at the price of RM7 per meal, and multiples thereof. These “purchases” by the public will be converted to freshly prepared food to be distributed by various soup kitchens. Currently Meals for All works closely alongside Kechara Soup Kitchen, run by the Kechara Organization, who distributes food to the homeless at various locations in the Klang Valley every Saturday. On September 27, Meals for All will be sponsoring yet another round of food supplies for Kechara’s weekly distribution.

Meals for All is an ongoing initiative and those who are interested to lend a helping hand to the cause or wanting to find out more about their efforts may contact Ramesh via email at ramesh.vadiveloo@gmail.com or via the private messaging channel on Meals for All’s Facebook page. 

This article was published in the Unreserved on October 10, 2014,