Meet Ayesha Khan Who Serves The Purpose Of World Food Day Efficiently

The migrant workers in the Gulf region have been suffering on account of poor wages, unhygienic living conditions and lack of proper food or accommodation for ages. According to the official reports, around 8.5 million Indians live and work in the Gulf, of which the majority are semi-skilled or unskilled labourers. Such expatriate workers are struggling in other parts of the globe as well, living apart from their families to meet the financial needs of their households. This segment of the population boosts the country’s economy via Gulf money remittances. The survival instincts of these migrant labourers often leave them with no other option than to keep craving for good food as they are mostly unaffordable. 

World Food Day is celebrated to commemorate the birth of the United Nations Food and Agriculture  Organisation (FAO) that was established on October 16, 1945. It is celebrated every year with a new theme. This year’s theme is “Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future.” The objective is to create awareness about existing problems of obesity and malnutrition due to hunger. On this 16th of October, when the world is celebrating World Food Day, let us meet this 45-year-old Indian expatriate who cooks and serves meals to the economically challenged workforce residing in the UAE at the most affordable rates. 

To start with, let us appreciate the efforts of this NRI, Ayesha Khan, who cooks and serves delicious homely foods cheaply to the labourers working in the UAE. She provides meals at just 3 Dirhams (60 INR) to the blue-collar workers in the United Arab Emirates. She is the owner of the venture titled ‘Food-ATM’, which strives to feed the hungry low-wage labourers residing in the country. A three or four-course meal is provided at this rate which is a blessing to many. Ayesha delivers the parcels every day to approximately 2,600 people living in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. 

Ayesha started her career as a computer engineer, working for a government entity in Dubai and Ajman. “During my career as an engineering professional, I used to share my food with some workers in my office. One day, a worker came up to me and showed me a picture of his child attending school. He said thanks to the help provided by me, he was able to save money for his child’s education. I felt very humbled and emotional. That set me thinking about how shallow our lives are sometimes. We only think along with material terms and work for ourselves, but how many of us make that extra effort to do something for others?,” Ayesha told the Gulf News. 

For the cause of providing good food to the hardworking people, she quit her job with the Dubai government entity. She followed her passion and decided on investing in her dream project of “providing low-cost, hygienic food to some hungry souls”. She launched her dream project, ‘Food ATM’ in March 2019, to feed hungry labourers at a nominal cost. To have a meal daily is quite expensive in a country like the UAE, where typically a worker pays 5 Dirhams for the Indian bread and ‘daal.’ 

Through the Food ATM, Ayesha introduces a meal pack that comprises a box of biriyani, a cup of curd, some pickles and a small cup of dessert, all for just 3 Dirham. The venture primarily focuses on feeding the Indian, Pakistani, Nepali and other South Asian labourers with her eight different menus prepared every day. She has a special South Indian menu which is specifically made for the Malabaris with fish fry, biriyani, keema, aloo mattar, boiled rice with daal and so on. 

Workers packing egg biryani at Food ATM facility in Ajman to be delivered at a camp
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The Food ATM operates with a smart meal card to ensure that a worker has food through a cashless system. The Gulf News quotes Ayesha as saying that, “Usually, these workers run out of money at the beginning of the month itself as they send money to their families back home. Then, for the rest of the month, they keep struggling to pay for their food and other daily necessities. The smart meal card ensures their needs regarding food are taken care of without any hiccups. The idea is to ensure that no one goes hungry.” The card is designed with a number, the individual’s photo, the consumer’s company ID and the company name with contact details. It also has a QR code on it which can be scanned for the meal count balance. 

The venture currently serves almost 2,600 blue-collar labourers and has recently signed a contract with a Dubai-based school to provide meals to its students. She aims to help working parents who find it difficult to send tiffin for their children. She ensures that the quality of food is very superior. Her Food ATM team has 17 staff members in total and she serves three meals a day- breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Ayesha is an inspiration to all those who are struggling to follow their passion. Her goal is to get as many sponsorships and feed as many workers as possible at a meagre cost. She is determined to lend a helping hand to the struggling people around her. On this World Food Day, let us hope for more Ayeshas across the globe to come to the fore to help the needy and the poor to ‘Let us ‘grow, nourish and sustain together’. 

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Don't miss important NRI related news - just give your email ID to get it in your inbox - it's free

Click here to subscribe Telegram Channel