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May 7, 2021

Pakistani activist serves free 500 meals a day to the needy

LONDON: An Asian community kitchen in West London is providing over 500 hot meals to low-income families, the homeless, and refugees for free each day.

The Open Kitchen project in Hounslow is the innovation of Pakistani community activist and businessman Ehsan Shahid, who initiated it around three years ago with the support of a charity. Until the pandemic hit, the Open Kitchen served as a restaurant for homeless and vulnerable people to come and sit and talk over a free meal, twice a day, seven days a week. There were never any questions asked and anyone who needed food could walk in, pick up a plate and cutlery and choose their meal from a buffet of fresh meat, fish, vegetarian options, fruit, pudding, and various condiments.

Following the initial lockdown in March 2020, the demand for free food has multiplied and there is now not a single day when the kitchen doesn’t give out more than 500 hot and nutritious meals. Shahid closed the sit-in option to comply with the government's guidelines on the coronavirus but turned his venture into a collection service, providing two hot meals along with water and snacks daily. The Open Kitchen has not closed for a single day, with the credit going to its team of volunteers and staff, said Ehsan Shahid.