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40,000 portions of soup per day – an up-close look at Tbilisi’s soup kitchens

In Tbilisi 40,446 people use the services of soup kitchens.

Although there are many more that need help – 4,992 people are registered on waiting lists, waiting their turn to receive a daily portion.

The budget for servicing the free canteens of the Tbilisi City Hall for 2019 is GEL 18,511,800 (about 6.4 million USD). This amount is 2 million more than last year, but still not sufficient.

According to GeoStat, in 2018 20.1 per cent of the population of Georgia lives below the absolute poverty line.

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In Tbilisi, there are 63 soup kitchens.Every day, once a day, those in need come to receive a daily portion of food.There is an additional list, that gives extra portions once the first round of daily portions has been distributed.

The third list is a list of this waiting to get on the first. Tbilisi City Hall says that 1.30 GEL is allocated per beneficiary daily.

And only a small part of this amount is spent directly on food, since with this 1.30 GEL, the soup kitchens must pay utility expenses, rent, staff salaries and other salaries.

Often, in the soup kitchens, the food is of such poor quality that beneficiaries take only bread.

The serving size is also very small.

In order to make lunch from a canteen to become usable and nutritious, the beneficiaries often add certain ingredients themselves. Of course – in thoe rare cases when they have these products.

Natia

Natia Babunashvili lives with two children in the Kojori refugee settlement.Her family lives below the poverty line – she makes just 400 GEL per month

Half of this amount is social assistance, the second half is money she received to ‘reintegrate [her] biological children back into the family.’

Natia says that the received social assistance for food is only enough for ten days.

The remaining twenty days she uses the services of the soup kitchen.

This is the ninth year she has been receiving food from the Kojori soup kitchen – she knows the local menu wells.

She says that often the food is so unsuitable that the children basically do not eat anything except bread.

Natia says she has repeatedly expressed her dissatisfaction with the quality of food both in the canteen and in the district council.

As a result, she achieved only that the government increased her daily bread rate. Now, instead of one and a half loaves of bread, she gets three.

Natia's monthly expenses:

Illustration author: Sophio Kirtadze

In addition to the existing 63 canteens in the capital, there are soup kitchens in the regions as well: the daily menu and the amounts allocated to each beneficiary in Tbilisi and in the regions differ.

What is the daily menu like

The daily menu of free canteens consists of one main and a side.

The main course is usually soup.

The menu also contains fruit or fruit compote.

The calorie content of daily meals of free eateries ranges from 1090 to 1200 cal. There are more carbohydrates than proteins in most of the daily meals.

For example, Monday’s lunch contains 1090 calories. 186.73 grams of carbs, with 25.15 grams of fats.

The National Health Service of the UK writes that the daily normal caloric intake of an adult man is 2500 calories, and that of a woman is 2000.

The daily allowance of the beneficiaries of the canteen is almost two times less.

The UK National Health Service also writes that carbohydrates should be one third of the entire ration, but on the menu in canteens, carbs make up the majority of calories.

The photo shows a one-day portion of food for three people. To this is added 250 gr. bread (half a loaf) for each beneficiary, whose caloric content is equal to 550.

Kojori’s soup kitchen, where Natia Babunashvili and her children eat, is supplied by Nili LLC.

She tells us about the menu of each day:

"Watery matsoni soup"

"the meat has no taste"

"there are foreign objects in the bread."

What does the company say

Kojori’s soup kitchen, where Natia Babunashvili and her children eat, is supplied by Nili LLC.

Nili has signed an agreement with three district councils - Mtatsminda, Chugureti and Isani this year.

Nili LLC is responsible for the delivery of products to the free canteens of these three regions until the beginning of 2020. For this, the company will receive up to 5 million lari.

The company states that they have not received complaints about the poor quality of the food, and says it has never heard of “foreign bodies in the bread.”

“There cannot be low-quality bread ... This is the same bread that we supply to kindergartens and nurseries,” said Giorgi Giorgadze, a company representative.

This company does in fact supply food to some kindergartens and nurseries in Tbilisi. In January 2019, Nili LLC was fined 30,000 GEL due to the fact that the products supplied by them to kindergartens had a fat content below the prescribed norm.

Nona

Nona has three children, and is also extremely poor.

Nona got onto the soup kitchen list three years ago.

She says that she takes only bread from the soup kitchen, since the rest of the food neither the children nor she herself can eat.

"We need to go miles to bring home watery food that needs to be cooked again ... Better let them give us money and we will prepare our own lunch," says Nona.

Author:Nino Abdaladze I Mariam Ugrekhelidze Photo: Guram Abdaladze Editor Elene Asatiani

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