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The taste of home


Think of home and family and no doubt sitting down to a favourite family meal soon comes to mind. Now imagine you have lived in Snehalaya’s shelter home since infancy and never having lived in a family have no idea what a good home-cooked meal tastes like. This is the reality for many of our children where, despite our best efforts, the sheer scale of feeding around 400 children, women and staff three times daily makes it challenging to add the personal touches that make your family favourites so special.


This is something that kept nagging in the mind of Sapna Asawa when she joined us for meals with her husband, a long-time supporter of Snehalaya. Although she saw that complete and healthy meals were being served, she questioned how much the children actually relished the taste and enjoyed the different ingredients and how much they were just mechanically filling their stomachs.

She could see that all the necessary raw ingredients were available in our kitchen but the flavours were lacking. She felt that the menu needed to be pepped up with the right balance of nutrition and flavour. She decided to give her time to help prepare meals with added protein-rich ingredients such as lentils, dry fruits and clarified butter featuring in each meal. Many of our children are HIV+ and ART reduces their resistance to spices, sugar and salt. All of these need to be reduced and replaced with other healthy options with enhanced flavours like groundnuts, jaggery, puffed rice, barfis, parathas or bread made of wheat flour and beetroot, gourd, fenugreek, etc.


Our children’s taste buds are now well and truly being tantalised with a range of new taste experiences that include sweet, sour, bitter, hot, spicy, peppery all on one plate. Their reaction has been wonderful to see as they wholeheartedly tuck into huge plates of food often returning for seconds and thirds. Like all children, they also crave delicacies, treats and ‘Chat variants’, such as Pav Bhaji, Batata Vada and other innovative, tasty and nutritious dishes, which Sapna is encouraging our kitchen team to prepare in-house to ensure good quality ingredients. Recently she has also been joined by her friend Gita Kaur and has a gang of extra helpers made up of some of our children who are learning how to prepare the dishes alongside her which we are sure will become favourites for their own families in the future.

Sapna says: “I have always loved cooking. And I feel that cooking a delicious meal is an art. I have enjoyed cooking food for my boys at home and wanted to bring those same flavours to the Snehalaya kitchen for the children here. Over the last two years, I feel I have truly become a part of the Snehalaya family and I love it when the kids come to me and tell me how much they enjoyed their meal. It is like getting a compliment from my boys at home. The feeling of satisfaction which I get here is beyond words”.


Our Snehalaya family is blessed to have volunteers like Sapna and Gita with us and we are so happy that what started as an occasional visit has now become a two or three times a week culinary treat!


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