25 August 2021

Malhotra family dishes up free meals on wheels for locals in need

| James Coleman

Garry and his family are cooking up delicious Indian meals for Canberrans in need. Photo: Garry Malhotra.

“Please message me your address and we will deliver your meal to your doorstep. Thank you, Canberrans. Stay safe.”

It really was as simple as that.

When the ACT locked down last Thursday from 5:00 pm, many were sent home from work to find the pantry bare and the grocery stores gutted by ‘panic buyers’.

This is where Garry Malhotra came in.

On 14 August, the Indian cook posted to the Canberra Notice Board Group that he, along with his family, would be delivering 200 meals to locals in need.

“Lockdown is a very stressful time for all and we would like to ease a little of your stress by offering free meals. Let us know how many people and your address and we will deliver free food to your doorstep,” he posted.

The reaction was predictable.

By the end of the first day, more than 1,200 meals had been delivered to doorsteps across the capital.

“First day wasn’t well planned. We are ready for tomorrow, though,” Garry posted later that evening.

Malhotra's meals

Day 2’s meals ready to go. Photo: Garry Malhotra.

For Day 2, he had devised a menu consisting of fried rice with calamari, and creamy mushroom chicken pasta. The menu for Day 3 included chicken breast with mushroom sauce and rice and paneer butter masala with rice.

Commenters are calling him out for his “awesome work” and “community spirit”.

“It melts my heart. These times either bring out the best or worst in people,” read one.

“Amazing work everyone involved. We need more of you than anyone else. Please keep up the great work you are doing, not just within your community but for the nation itself! Many thanks,” wrote another.

Garry says it’s an entirely family-run operation and there is no overarching organisation involved.

“I was in hospital on Thursday when they first announced the lockdown and I was fasting for 48 hours ahead of an appendix surgery on Saturday,” Garry says.

That’s when the thought popped into his head.

“I thought about the elderly people and people who don’t have the capacity to cook for themselves or go out. Why can’t I just help some of those people by delivering meals to their doorsteps?”

“So I posted on Facebook and the number of people that got back to me was huge.”

Navleen Malhotra

Navleen Malhotra is also on the family-operated meal production line. Photo: Garry Malhotra.

As the Chief Operating Officer for a food preparation training facility, he has access to a kitchen that’s up the task. Garry and his family are buying supplies from local grocery stores, cooking them up and delivering the finished products across Canberra from 6:00 am every morning until 8:00 pm every evening.

He says that they’re not taking donations of money or food either.

“We are not judging anyone. If we get a request from someone, we just go there. I simply don’t have the time to discern whether or not someone is truly in need.”

It goes back to the initial lockdown last year when Garry posted to the Canberra Notice Board Group asking that “if you are concerned about you or your child not being able to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner, feel free to inbox me with no fear, guilt, or shame”.

“I will do what I can to help. A cooked meal, a box of cereal, milk, bread, sugar, cheese, jam, whatever.

“As the weeks go on, the lockdowns continue and people lose their income. There may be people out there who simply cannot afford the day-to-day necessities,” he said at the time.

If you are unable to feed your family or yourself during the lockdown, other help is also available.

You can request a delivery of food and essential items to your front door for free by calling Volunteering ACT and ordering a limited number of pantry items. This doesn’t include fresh produce, however.

A volunteer from the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) will collect and deliver your order to your front door. These volunteers are not permitted to enter your home, so if you are unable to collect the delivery from your front door, you will need to arrange for a carer or approved visitor to assist you.

It’s worth noting that this is an urgent relief service for those most in need. The ACT Government is monitoring the demand for this service to see if it will be required in the coming days.

To order emergency food and essential items, call Volunteering ACT on 1800 43 11 33 between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. If the phone is not answered, leave a message and someone will return your call.

Original Article published by James Coleman on The RiotACT.

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