Moved by images of the suffering of ordinary Indians who have been left without food or shelter across the subcontinent, New York-based chef Vikas Khanna has mobilised soup kitchens to serve khichdi (rice and lentils) to some of the most vulnerable people in the world.
His campaign began with a click on a charity site to donate, but the site turned out to be suspect. Khanna became frustrated and instead decided to act, teaming up with the National Disaster Relief Force for the campaign to #FEEDINDIA. Today their efforts have fed over 7 million needy Indians, and the plan is to serve many more, with two kitchens in Noida and Mumbai, and mobile kitchens that move across 135 cities and highways to feed those desperate to return home to be with their families.
“I had first tweeted and asked everyone to check if their neighbourhood needs anything, and even started an open email where I would get thousands of messages. Yesterday morning (May 26), we crossed seven million meals. I dedicated the seven millionth meal to chef José Andrés whose World Central Kitchen is now active in dozens of US cities, providing over 250,000 fresh meals every day. #FEEDINDIA started at gas stations in India and transformed into food stations on highways, for anyone who wanted a meal,” said Khanna.
Khanna was disappointed when his first attempts at feeding those in need failed, when a logistics manager disappeared with his supply of rice and lentils. However, the chef was spurred on by his mother who told him not to lose heart.
The meal being served is khichdi, a widely eaten comfort food or soup made from rice and lentils. The Amritsar chef holds a Michelin star at his restaurant Junoon, in NYC, which is currently closed to seating but open for takeout orders.
The chef is the author of 37 cookbooks, and last year won acclaim for his feature film directorial debut The Last Color, which was adapted from his own book.