Survey Report on Lha Community Soup Kitchen

On July 6th, 2011, Lha opened its Community Soup Kitchen in its new building, Ahimsa House. This became the first soup kitchen in Dharamsala that serves low-cost and nutritious meals to the Tibetan refugee community. Refugees take advantage of this beneficial service for a nominal fee of 15 rupees per person per meal, but meals are completely free for those who cannot afford to pay this amount. 91% of Lha Community Kitchen users pay 15 rupees for lunch, while 9% get lunch for free. soup-kitchen-update In June 2013 a survey of 47 users of the community soup kitchen was administered in order to assess the effectiveness of the services being provided as well as to identify areas for improvement. This survey found that 70% of Lha Community Kitchen Users are current Lha students, and 94% of users are between 21 and 40 years of age. Both men and women utilize services of the Lha Community Kitchen in a similar proportion. In regards to the financial situation of the soup kitchen users, nearly all of the users are unemployed, with only one out of 47 users reporting as employed. Only 6 (13%) Lha Community Kitchen users receive support from family, friends or a sponsor. 8 of the surveyed users report to be on the CTA poverty list. The majority of Lha Community Kitchen users pay 1,500-3,000 rupees for monthly rent and 2,000-3,000 rupees for food every month. Users report to use the soup kitchen mostly due to financial problems but other reasons include lack of time available to cook and health problems. The kitchens first and foremost objective is to provide refugees with low-cost and nutritious meals while educating them about healthy eating and living. There is an obvious demand for these services, ashealth issues appear to be a major concern for many soup kitchen users, with 51% of users reported to have health problems. However, the community soup kitchen has been beneficial in providing well-rounded meals and clean drinking water for all of its users. This source of pure, clean water is important because 81% of Lha Community Kitchen users regularly drink tap water. In addition, the community soup kitchen provides a valuable source of fruit in every meal. This is particularly important because 21% of Lha Community Kitchen users consume only fruit provided at the soup kitchen. 36% of users have only one serving of fruit per week and 17% of users have two servings of fruit per week, indicating a deficiency in this key food group. In addition to the tangible nutritional benefits that the soup kitchen provides its users daily, Lha’s community soup kitchen undoubtedly provides a much needed source of support and community for its users. This is evident in the figures, as almost half (45%) of Lha Community Kitchen users don’t have any family members at the place where they currently live and 28% of users have only one to four family members in Dharamsala. The majority (85%) of Lha Community Kitchen users were born in Tibet, while the remaining users were born in India. Feedback given from users is very positive. Comments from users include “Lha kitchen is good for the newcomers from Tibet who don’t have any financial support and I request that they will continue the service.” and “We should be proud of this social service organization in our community. I wish its service will last forever. Thank you!” This survey was supervised and conducted by Lha volunteer Ms. Aleksandra Zecenic, Associate Professor, Health Studies of Western University, Canada. The summary is reported by Lha volunteer Ms. OliviaNicolaus from USA.