Home >News >India >Food tech entrepreneurs pitch cloud kitchens to feed the poor amid lockdown

NEW DELHI : Amid the nationwide lockdown to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, food tech entrepreneurs are planning to convert their cloud kitchens into community facilities to address food shortage for the jobless poor.

Cloud kitchens are takeaways with no dine-in facility.

Rajesh Sawhney, co-founder of cloud kitchen platform InnerChef, said: “The poorest must be fed. Cloud kitchens can be converted into community kitchens should governments enable it. InnerChef offers all its kitchens at a no-profit basis to the authorities in Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Mumbai."

Sawhney proposed a public-private partnership (PPP), where his existing kitchens can be retooled to cook meals for the poor.

“We have the infrastructure and the staff. The government can give us the ration from the public distribution system and my staff can cook basic meals like khichri or dal roti subzi. These can then be picked up by the police at designated times of the day and delivered to the needy," he said.

The model is workable during the nationwide lockdown. However, he said the government must pay the salary of the kitchen staff.

Similarly, Delhi-based Vedant Kanoi, co-founder and CEO of FoodCloud, is also extending his support to the Delhi government through his platform of home chefs, who will cook meals for daily wagers, among others.

FoodCloud is a marketplace for home food, with verified home chefs in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai, with more than 4,500 registered chefs.

“We have 350-plus FSSAI-registered home chefs in Delhi-NCR who can each prepare up to 100 meals per day. Unlike a base kitchen, the chefs do not need to travel to any location and are able to cook nutritious meals from within the safety of their homes," said Kanoi.

Kanoi said FoodCloud will deliver the ingredients to the home chefs so that they don’t have to go out to buy the raw materials and, once the food is cooked, the company’s delivery boys can pick up the meals to deliver wherever required.

“We can provide khichri, chole chawal or rajma chawal, which is wholesome and fast-to-cook, and will feed the poor," Kanoi said, adding he is trying to get in touch with the Delhi government to get things moving.

Kanoi hopes that the government will cover a part of the costs so that the home chefs are paid on time and can continue working.

“Running a cloud kitchen in a lockdown is an emergency service, and for that, the personnel involved in the process of cooking and distribution should be allowed to access the cloud kitchen," said Deepti Nanda, founder & head chef of food tech firm Mom’s Kitchen.

Food delivery platforms such as Swiggy, which has more than 1,000 cloud kitchens for its restaurant partners, can also be roped in by the government to provide meals to the needy.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Wednesday that free rations will be provided to those whose jobs and livelihoods may have been affected by the lockdown.

The Kerala government, too, said community kitchens will be set up in each panchayat, and food will be home-delivered to those in home-quarantine and in hospitals.

So far, there has been little private participation, but some organisations, such as the youth wings of political parties and Kudumbasree network of women (which runs hotels), have started contributing to such efforts.

Following the Centre’s lockdown announcement, cloud kitchens are being shut down by law-enforcement agencies, and unless the government takes an initiative, it will be of little use to talk to the local police to start community services, said Sawhney.

The proposal for converting cloud platforms into community kitchens could emerge as a win-win proposition, said food tech entrepreneurs.

M.K. Nidheesh in Ernakulam contributed to this story.

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