How soup kitchens are bringing people in need together in Turkey

Syrian refugees and Turkish nationals alike are cooking up a storm in a collaboration between agencies and institutions.

Syrian refugees and Turkish nationals alike are cooking up a storm in a collaboration between agencies and institutions.

The World Food Programme is working with a number of organizations and government bodies to keep assisting Syrian refugees and Turkish nationals in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

Among these are the German development agency GIZ (the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and its Promotion of Economic Prospects Programme; the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and seven local municipalities in Turkey. They are working together to help soup kitchens both feed and train community members.

Aisha, from Syria, and Salih, who is Turkish, are doing on-the-job training at a soup Kitchen in Haliliye, Sanliurfa — a city in south-eastern Turkey. Although it’s a bit tiring, Aisha is happy about working in a place where the head chef praises her work. “I love that I am getting to mingle with Turkish people here. Everyone is so helpful,” she says. Salih is similarly thrilled that the chef gives instructions and explains everything in detail.

At soup kitchens, food is cooked for households registered in the database of municipalities. The three-way collaboration seeks to support these places with packaging and vacuum machines, cooking ingredients and small-scale labour market interventions — in addition to responding to the urgent needs of refugees and Turkish nationals.

Working at a soup kitchen is a new experience for Aisha and Salih. They both like it, but each of them has their very own personal take on the experience. Aisha says: “This training is making me feel productive and I am glad that I get to leave the house.” Salih is focused on one important detail: “We are cooking food for people aged over 65, so we have to watch the amounts of salt and oil,” he says.

Handling multiple plates is a skill in itself.

Seven years ago, Aisha left Aleppo and moved to Turkey. She currently lives in Sanliurfa. Her husband is a tailor but his salary is unstable and doesn’t always fully meet the family’s needs. “I have to work to supplement our income because I’m a mother of four,” says the 36-year-old. She adds: “Everyone who tastes my food finds it delicious.”

Just like Aisha, Salih is a 28-year-old Turkish national keen to learn more about cooking. For him, “The best thing about the training is that I gained new skills. This is something I didn’t have before”. Salih is aiming for a career in the culinary sector. “I am thinking about opening a small restaurant for myself in the future,” he says.

This project was made possible thanks to generous contributions from the German government, Ireland and BPRM (The US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration). While GIZ will provide cash-for-work assistance and meal ingredients in 4 cities, WFP will place 17 of its Kitchen of Hope livelihood project participants into two soup kitchens as chef assistants and provide cooking ingredients in three cities.

People from different backgrounds can mix in the kitchen — literally.

The seven municipalities (Adana, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Kilis, Sanliurfa), on the other side, will be responsible for the overall implementation and IOM will support with kitchen equipment in three cities.

This collaboration, which kicked off in July, will result in cooking and distributing approximately 11,500 hot meals every day in seven provinces for vulnerable refugees and Turkish nationals by December, along with enhancing their employment prospects.

UN entities involved in this initiative
World Food Programme