The aftermath of the explosion that hit Beirut on August 4, 2020 has been devastating. More than 200 were killed, more than 6,000 were wounded and hundreds of thousands were rendered homeless.
In response to this tragedy, the Food Heritage Foundation (FHF) in partnership with the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at AUB, the Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB) and Zico House launched emergency relief activities targeting the communities which are suffering the most from the tragedy by offering them daily hot meals under the framework of the Ardi Ardak Initiative. Le Passport Culinaire later joined the coalition by providing volunteer chefs and supporting our work through fundraising campaigns in Europe.
During this crisis, FHF is operating through its central kitchen – Akleh in Zico House, Beirut and the Khayrat Bekaana community kitchen in West Bekaa to respond to this emergency. Since Thursday August 6, 2020, FHF – with the support of its partners and its active network of volunteers – has been preparing an average of 270 hot meals per day and distributing them to affected individuals and families. Food preparation effort will increase to reach an average of 600 meals per day in the upcoming few days. With the generous cash donations, raw material is being purchased from FHF’s network of small-scale farmers and cooperatives who have been engaged in FHF and ESDU’s previous and ongoing capacity building projects hence benefiting both affected urban populations and the vulnerable rural communities.
By engaging its network of community kitchens, FHF can reach more than 1,000 meals per day, and can also involve more community kitchens from its network. In addition to the distribution of hot meals, which is considered a short-term response, FHF will soon start distributing mouneh boxes ensuring families’ access to food in the long run and further promoting livelihoods of producers and cooperatives who are providing these products.
Distribution is being conducted either one-on-one, reaching out directly to affected individuals with the support of the volunteers or by collaborating with other organizations including the Center of Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) at AUB and the Lebanese Food Bank (LFB).
FHF’s efforts have been sustained through the kindness and generosity of concerned citizens and professionals who have volunteered their time to feed the most vulnerable victims of the Beirut blast. Until now, we have had 40 volunteers, among them chefs, assistant chefs and kitchen support and delivery volunteers. We have also had 28 ESDU and FHF team member volunteers help with organization, kitchen support and delivery.
Given the rapid deteriorating conditions in Lebanon and the long-term traumatizing affects the explosion will have on the Lebanese population, this initiative will be integral for providing hunger relief to vulnerable communities that are suffering during these dire times and supporting rural and small-scale producers. Our hope is that FHF’s work contributes to the larger collaborative challenge to once again raise Beirut from the ashes of destruction.