Today's Paper Latest Elections Coronavirus 🔵 Covid Classroom Cooking Families Core values Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive
ADVERTISEMENT
story.lead_photo.caption Israel Swan, right, delivers free meals Monday, July 13, 2020, to Tammy Smith in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, donated from Chicago area restaurants, which have been providing food to the hungry during the pandemic. The non-profit World Central Kitchen pays hundreds of restaurants across the country $10 per meal. They are then distributed by community organizations, including I Grow Chicago, for which Israel is a volunteer. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

CHICAGO -- Before coronavirus arrived, Manish Mallick's trips to this city's South Side had been limited to attending graduate classes at the University of Chicago.

Now Mallick is a South Side regular -- and a popular one. He regularly arrives bearing food for the hungry from his Indian restaurant several miles to the north, in the city's downtown.

"Thank you, sugar, for the meals. They're so delicious!" one woman recently shouted to Mallick outside a South Side YWCA. He recorded her response on his phone to share it with his staff.

"God bless you!" she added, raising her arms for emphasis.

Mallick has personally delivered thousands of meals cooked and packed by his staff –- among them, chickpea curry and tandoori chicken with roasted cottage cheese, sweet corn, peas and rice. Volunteers from neighborhood organizations then take them to children, retirees and the multitudes who've been laid off or sick during the pandemic.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

"We all need to help each other," Mallick says. "That's the best way to get through a crisis."

His restaurant, ROOH, is one of more than 2,400 eateries, from New York City to Oakland, Calif., working with the nonprofit World Central Kitchen to provide meals to the hungry. Traditionally, the organization has paid restaurants $10 a meal to feed people affected by natural disasters, such as Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017.

Now the organization is focused on this current crisis, as are many other entities that help feed the hungry. They include food banks and other nonprofit groups, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is buying produce, meat and dairy products from farmers for its growing food box program. Many U.S. children also have been receiving meals provided by a large network of public and private sources at school pickup sites.

World Central Kitchen is among those that provide meals to schoolchildren. But its leaders are worried about their ability to sustain the effort in an extended crisis.

So they're lobbying Congress to provide federal emergency money to help bring the restaurant model to every state. The idea is to help not only the hungry, but also restaurants workers and farmers, who've been hard-hit by the impacts of coronavirus.

"It's a domino effect of impact," says Nate Mook, CEO of World Central Kitchen, which was founded by chef Jose Andres and his wife, Patricia. They've tagged this latest response #ChefsForAmerica.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to begin rolling out the Senate GOP bill soon. Whether it will contain language from a World Central Kitchen-inspired bill -- originally called the FEED Act and sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers -- remains to be seen. Congress resumes this week and lawmakers are on two-week sprint hoping to approve the next round of virus aid by month's end.

Mook says the longevity of this crisis requires federal aid, and he and others anticipate food insecurity worsening in the months to come as unemployment benefits come to an end for some.

"We feel like this is the calm before the storm," says Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee.

Tussler also is frustrated with the sometimes chaotic nature of donations in this current climate and the difficulty –- partly due to social distancing –- of determining the nature of people's food emergencies. Rather than the government distributing food boxes, for instance, she supports increasing food stamp assistance, also known as SNAP, to ensure those most in need are fed.

Either way, Verna Swan, a retired nurse who lives in Englewood and volunteers to deliver meals from ROOH and other restaurants, says the service is greatly appreciated. She and her 14-year-old nephew, Israel Swan, took meals to seniors in their neighborhood in recent days.

"We're family. We look out for each other," says Verna Swan, a volunteer for I Grow, an organization serving the neighborhood, where she first moved when she was 13 years old.

She says these meals also have connected the residents with new people and cultures. Several had never tasted Indian food before.

This isn't how Mallick, a longtime tech executive, had envisioned things going last year, when he first opened ROOH, which specializes in what he calls progressive Indian cuisine. But he pivoted, first delivering meals to hospital staff when Chicago cases skyrocketed in the spring.

To survive, he has turned a parking lot next to his restaurant into an outdoor dining patio and beefed up delivery services. And he's looking to grow his mission with World Central Kitchen, which also has enabled him to hire more kitchen staff.

"It's a blessing," he says.

ROOH owner Manish Mallick, left, and Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar supervise the loading of 450 meals in Mallick's car for I Grow Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, July 13, 2020. ROOH is one of hundreds of eateries around the nation working with the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen to provide meals to the hungry. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
ROOH owner Manish Mallick, left, and Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar supervise the loading of 450 meals in Mallick's car for I Grow Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, July 13, 2020. ROOH is one of hundreds of eateries around the nation working with the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen to provide meals to the hungry. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
ROOH Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar prepares part of the 450 meals that owner Manish Mallick will deliver to I Grow Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, July 13, 2020. ROOH is one of hundreds of eateries around the country working with the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen to produce meals for the hungry. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
ROOH Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar prepares part of the 450 meals that owner Manish Mallick will deliver to I Grow Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, July 13, 2020. ROOH is one of hundreds of eateries around the country working with the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen to produce meals for the hungry. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
ROOH owner Manish Mallick delivers some of the 450 meals from his Indian restaurant for I Grow Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, July 13, 2020. Mallick is a regular on the Southside now, and a popular one who regularly arrives bearing food. "Thank you, sugar, for the meals. They're so delicious!" one woman recently shouted to Mallick outside a South Side YWCA. He recorded her response on his phone so he could share it with his staff. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
ROOH owner Manish Mallick delivers some of the 450 meals from his Indian restaurant for I Grow Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, July 13, 2020. Mallick is a regular on the Southside now, and a popular one who regularly arrives bearing food. "Thank you, sugar, for the meals. They're so delicious!" one woman recently shouted to Mallick outside a South Side YWCA. He recorded her response on his phone so he could share it with his staff. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Cooks Jose Robledo, left, and Maria Cruz, prepare part of the 450 meals that ROOH restaurant owner Manish Mallick, will deliver to I Grow Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, on Monday, July 13, 2020. ROOH is one of hundreds of eateries around the nation working with the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen to produce meals for the hungry. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Cooks Jose Robledo, left, and Maria Cruz, prepare part of the 450 meals that ROOH restaurant owner Manish Mallick, will deliver to I Grow Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, on Monday, July 13, 2020. ROOH is one of hundreds of eateries around the nation working with the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen to produce meals for the hungry. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Tandoori Chicken with rice, beans, peas, and sweet corn in a makhani sauce is one of two dishes prepared at the Indian restaurant ROOH, that will be delivered to I Grow Chicago in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, July 13, 2020. ROOH is one of hundreds of eateries around the nation working with the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen to produce meals for the hungry. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Tandoori Chicken with rice, beans, peas, and sweet corn in a makhani sauce is one of two dishes prepared at the Indian restaurant ROOH, that will be delivered to I Grow Chicago in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, July 13, 2020. ROOH is one of hundreds of eateries around the nation working with the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen to produce meals for the hungry. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Volunteer Kul Jas works in the ROOH Indian restaurant as she prepares part of the 450 meals that will be delivered to I Grow Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, July 13, 2020. ROOH is one of hundreds of eateries around the nation working with the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen to produce meals for the hungry. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Volunteer Kul Jas works in the ROOH Indian restaurant as she prepares part of the 450 meals that will be delivered to I Grow Chicago, in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, July 13, 2020. ROOH is one of hundreds of eateries around the nation working with the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen to produce meals for the hungry. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Manish Mallick, owner of the Indian restaurant ROOH, poses for a portrait outside the West Loop restaurant in Chicago on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. When Mallick opened last year, he was focused on building his business and getting rave reviews about the eatery's "progressive Indian cuisine" from the city's top critics. Now some of his biggest fans are on the city's South Side, where he regularly delivers hundreds of meals to those hardest-hit by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Manish Mallick, owner of the Indian restaurant ROOH, poses for a portrait outside the West Loop restaurant in Chicago on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. When Mallick opened last year, he was focused on building his business and getting rave reviews about the eatery's "progressive Indian cuisine" from the city's top critics. Now some of his biggest fans are on the city's South Side, where he regularly delivers hundreds of meals to those hardest-hit by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report. Martha Irvine can be reached at mirvine@ap.org or at http://twitter.com/irvineap.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT