Association of Medical Doctors of ASIA, founded in 1984, Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC since 1995








Providing free meals in Bodhgaya, India (August 2023 – March 2024)

Publication date:2024-05-09
Dr. Archana Shrestha Joshi (AMDA Headquarters)
Since January 2023, AMDA Peace Clinic (APC) in Bodhgaya, India, has been providing free meals every Tuesday to economically-challenged people in the local area. Bodhgaya is located in Bihar, India’s most impoverished state. 
During the month of August 2023, there were days in which the meal provision service had to be postponed due to the extreme summer heat and rain. 
However, whenever the food distribution was organized, APC’s staff members prepared dishes that helped prevent people from getting heat exhaustion. One item to note is a locally favoured drink called “sattu.” Prepared with roasted chickpea flour, salt, spices, and lemon, sattu is known for its health benefits that help overcome summer fatigue.
In the following month of September, the meal content changed to a popular Indian set meal comprising rice, bean soup, vegetable curry, and poori (fried bread). In some cases, kheer (milk porridge) was provided as part of diverse menu items that changed every week. All this while, sattu was continuously served to complement it. 
Although the lingering summer heat kept people away from going outside, many still showed up to receive the food aid. Their backgrounds varied but each of them expressed their gratitude for AMDA’s support. 

Until recently, the meals had been provided at an open square in front of APC. However, the location was changed to the terrace on the second floor of the clinic in January 2024. This is because the square was facing a road that made it too dusty for people to have food. 
At the terrace that can accommodate up to 40 people, the visitors are given meal tickets at the entrance on the first floor before going upstairs to receive meals. 
Most importantly, they are advised to wash their hands before eating: a practice that is lacking among the poor. At the table, people are seated on cardboard mats to avoid sitting on the floor directly.
AMDA makes it a point for everyone to wash their hands for improved hygiene and social etiquettes. Since many of them are not accustomed to hygiene practices and manners, AMDA hopes to instil them by continuously encouraging this pre-meal routine.  

From late December to January, it usually gets relatively cold in the early morning. But by 11 A.M. when the food distribution starts, the temperatures become mild and comfortable. 
Many people, both the young and the old, line up to get the food. This includes those who are in their wheelchairs. Even though it is difficult for people with physical disabilities to go up to the second floor of the building, they still have meals within the quarters of the clinic. 

From February to March, people begin to hesitate to go outside as temperatures gradually rise. Despite this, around 60 to 70 people typically line up to get the food. 
The vegetables and beans used for the meals are grown organically as part of AMDA’s local farming project. Prepared using such healthy ingredients, the savoury dishes have gained a good reputation. 
“Providing meals has become a lot smoother ever since we’ve started using the second floor of the building,” one of the staff members said. “However, because some people are not accustomed to washing their hands before eating, we need to continuously remind them to do so.” 
In fact, those who take charge of cooking are the producers of these organic vegetables. They seem to be very much content with the fact that they can cook meals using the ingredients they made. This has also been a huge motivation for them in carrying on with the food distribution effort.  

There has been a growing recognition among local residents that every Tuesday is the “free-meal day.” 
“It’s just rewarding to see children enjoying the meals,” a staff member in charge of cooking said. “In any case, they need to learn to wash their hands every time they eat.”
Because most households in this neighbourhood consist of extended families, recipients of the free meals are mostly children. However, their happy faces have proven the fact that the delicious meals are satisfying both their stomachs and hearts. 
    •  Primary Health Care & Promotion of Health Awareness (Promotion of Health)
    •  India
    •  2023
    •  2024