Jakarta’s food stalls distribute free meals to low-income families

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Fri, 2020-04-10 18:31

JAKARTA: Food stalls in Jakarta are distributing free meals to low-income families hit by the coronavirus outbreak. 

As of Friday the country had a total number of 3,512 cases and a death toll of 306, Reuters news agency reported a Health Ministry official as saying. 

The capital’s mosques, malls, restaurants and parks have closed and there are restrictions on traffic and public transport, according to press reports. There are also physical distancing measures in place. 

The eateries, known locally as wartegs, can be found on many of Jakarta’s streets and they cater to daily wage workers, motorcycle riders, public transport drivers as well as other customers. They are normally bustling but restrictions to contain the spread of the virus mean that customer numbers have dropped. The income of wartegs have fallen by 70 percent as a result. 

Humanitarian organization Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT) teamed up with a national warteg group called Kowantara to subsidize stalls and distribute food among low-income families.

The head of Kowantara, Mukroni, said the initiative started with 100 wartegs, which received a subsidy of IDR15,000 ($0.91) per food package. The amount is enough to prepare a meal comprising rice, eggs, vegetables and drinking water.

“Some wartegs also contribute to the packages if they can,” he told Arab News. “For example, a warteg would chip in IDR5,000 or IDR10,000 per package to add a piece of chicken or fish, so there is more variety in the menu.”

Wartegs have to adhere to coronavirus prevention measures and ensure people do not gather at their premises during the food distribution process in order to get the subsidy.

“We offer the aid so that the warteg owners can still operate their business, by also providing free food for the informal workers and those at the grassroots level,” ACT president Ibnu Khajar told Arab News.  “We will gradually add the number of beneficiaries to 1,000 wartegs.”

Warteg owners and workers are not always from Jakarta, coming to the city to earn a living. Most warteg operators originate from Tegal, a city on the north coast of Central Java that is hundreds of kilometers away from the capital.

ACT plans to keep the subsidy program running until the pandemic emergency ends, with Indonesian authorities expecting this to happen on May 29.

Caption: People queue in front of a Jakarta warteg that is taking part in an initiative to distribute free meals amid the coronavirus outbreak (Photo: Kowantara)

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