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Halifax restaurant offers free meals to health professionals during COVID-19

'We just wanted to support the community,' said co-owner of Rasa: Flavours Of India, Deeksha Bhaskar
(Rasa: Flavours of India/Facebook)

A popular Halifax eatery is doing its part to support healthcare workers as they battle to help patients through COVID-19.

Rasa: Flavours Of India announced on its Facebook page March 23 it would provide free meals to medical professionals if they show a hospital ID.

“We just wanted to support the community. We heard stories of the medical community struggling, and we started this initiative,” said co-owner Deeksha Bhaskar.

“Everyone who’s there working … They’re saving lives every day in our city and worldwide. This is the most difficult time to be a medical professional. They are chancing getting the virus and some are working 12 hours at a time. They don’t have chances to grocery shop like the rest of us. We wanted to help.”

While Rasa is feeling the crunch like other restaurants – provincially mandated to just do take-out and delivery, with shutdowns of dining rooms – it is doing its best to stay open and serve customers.

“We do as much work as we can while listening to the guidelines the province has given. We follow them, sanitize our space and practice social distancing,” Bhaskar said.

The restaurant is doing fair business, considering the circumstances under a State Of Emergency mandated by Premier Stephen McNeil.

“Many are staying home trying to avoid the virus, and that’s understandable. But the community is still very supportive,” she said. “Some are putting the extra effort in to support us, and even if we stay open to a small extent, we can still support our full-time staff. That’s better than the alternative.”

She said allowing for health professionals to get free meals allows them to get healthy food and continue to do important work.

“We want to take care of them. It’s the least we can do. Doctors Nova Scotia shared our Facebook post, and it was nice to see many people take advantage of it in a few hours. We hope even more people will,” she said.

Doctors Nova Scotia is pleased with Rasa’s efforts and the efforts of other businesses and the public in supporting doctors, nurses and other professionals.

“During this difficult time, we are seeing countless acts of kindness toward physicians and health-care professionals in communities across the province. I want to emphasize how much health-care providers appreciate your support during this time of crisis,” wrote Dr. Gary Ernest, President of Doctors Nova Scotia, in a release.

“These next weeks and months won’t be easy and the tremendous support of individuals, businesses and communities will go a long way to lifting spirits and morale during this difficult time in our history. “

He thanked people on behalf of doctors and mentioned one thing he hoped people would do.

“One of the greatest acts of kindnesses the general public can do is to follow the advice of Dr. Rob Strang. Together, we must all protect those most vulnerable from COVID-19 and also the physicians and health-care providers on the front lines so they can continue providing care to those who need it.”

Bhaskar is unsure how long the restaurant will do this, as resources are limited, but it is committed to helping however it can.

“We are just seeing how things go. We want to continue for a few weeks. Most of us are fortunate enough to stay home and safe, but these professionals risk their health all the time,” she said.

“They’re combatting COVID-19 and they must be supported in any way possible. If we take away access to good food as a stress point, we can help them stay doing what they do best.”

While Rasa cannot help forever, staff do hope their kindness reminds others its about helping the community as a whole.

“We want other people and companies to help out how they can. We need to find many ways to help out our first responders,” she said.

“These medical professionals are giving us a sense of normalcy and safety right now, and we need to focus on being there for them as much as possible.”

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