In October 2008 a new kind of café-shop opened in Kodai. Pot Luck began as a way of giving people in Kodai the opportunity to buy "Food from around the world, carefully cooked in Kodai kitchens" and, in the process, of being able to help those in need. A cute little European style cafe with outdoor seating on the verandah (balcony); PotLuck serves fresh food and off-the-shelf delicacies.
In the beginning, its name - Pot Luck - hinted at the way it functioned, for the menu changed almost daily, depending on what was being supplied. Today the menu is more or less constant. Food - fresh and packaged - is supplied by Kodai residents and some of the offerings are cooked on the premises.
In June 2010, the trustees of Pot Luck decided to start a Kodai-style soup kitchen, and decided to call it the Sambar Kitchen. They started by doing some research to identify men and women in extreme poverty, who cannot fully support themselves. They began registering these people in their new soup kitchen scheme. All those who are registered have a tiffin carrier assigned to them, with their name inscribed on it. Every morning the food is prepared - rice, sambar and a vegetable - and packed into the tiffin carriers. The recipients come to Pot Luck, pick up their tiffin carriers and take them away. After they have eaten, they bring the tiffin carriers back, washed and clean.
The idea was to help these people without taking away their dignity, and to create a sense of responsibility in them, at the same time. When people are registered with the Sambar Kitchen they sign or put a thumb print on an agreement. They agree to eat all the food they receive, themselves; to wash and return the tiffin carriers each day; to inform Pot Luck at least a day in advance, if they do not require food on any given day/days. Most of them eat everyday; one woman comes from the village to collect plastic on weekends and eats only on those two days. Most of them have got into the habit of informing Pot Luck when they know they are not going to be in town. It is delightful to see how these people react to food that is being cooked exclusively for them. Some have told the Pot Luck staff that they want less rice, as they were not able to finish what was being given to them. One woman said that sambar on a daily basis is rather rich and suggested that rasam could be made now and then instead!! Charming!
The Sambar Kitchen is managed on the profits generated by Pot Luck and on donations. A Birthday Scheme has been introduced to facilitate donations so that more people can benefit. In much of South India, it is traditional to do “anna-daanam” - poor feeding, on birthdays. You can celebrate or commemorate the birthdays of loved ones by making a commitment to contribute Rs 250 to the Sambar Kitchen for that particular day. You may write the name of the person whose birthday you want to celebrate or commemorate on the correct date page. Please do give a telephone number so that, if appropriate, a birthday message can be sent to that person. If you would like this to be an annual commitment, please tell the manager and he will make a note to remind you each year. It does not have to be a birthday - any day you want to commemorate is fine. You may, of course, make a one time donation, not related to a date, in any amount you choose.
Today, with the profits generated by the sale of fresh and packaged food, and with donations, a meal a day is provided, free of cost and with dignity, to 19 men and women. And this is just a beginning.
"To provide free staple food with DIGNITY to Kodai citizens who live in extreme poverty (earning less than Rs 50/day) & may continue to remain in poverty".