Suzhou restaurant joins ‘suspended meal’movement
SUZHOU –Miss Cheng had lunch in a lo-cal noodle shop last Tuesday noon. The noodles didn’t taste good enough for her, so she left some in the bowl. Cheng was gathering her stuff to leave, when an old woman came in and sat down across the table from her. Cheng walked away, only noticing that the old woman wore clothes presentable enough.
But when Cheng stepped out of the door, she was surprised to see through the glass door that the old woman was eating her leftover food.
Cheng felt quite sad. She told the story on her microblog, the Chinese version of twitter. One of her friends tweeted: “Girl, you wasted food!”Another said: “You should have bought her another bowl of noodles.”To this Cheng re-sponded: “Wouldn’t that be humiliating?”
The old lady might not be too poor to afford a bowl of noodles –she just couldn’t bear to see Cheng’s wasted food. But there’s more to this story. Is there any way we can give free food to the needy without humiliating them?
Cheng’s case fell in coincidence with a good-will practice emerging in some Chinese cities –buying one or two meals in a quick ser-vice restaurant for any complete stranger who can’t afford one.
A rice noodle shop in Suzhou’s Shizi Street, located between the main campus of Soochow University and The First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University, began to offer suspended meals to the needy last week. Chen Keyong, shop owner of the rice noodle shop called “Chengkechengpin,” literally honest guests and honest quality, said he initiated the good-will act after noticing that many of his customers were in poverty.
“My deliver workers told me that when they delivered meals to the nearby hospital, they found many families very poor, and my work-ers said they blamed themselves for having those families pay the food they delivered,”Chen told Suzhou Daily.
So when Chen saw a “suspended meal”movement in a few other Chinese cities, he ap-plied to join the movement immediately.
Now the national “suspended meal”move-ment has its official microblog (http://weibo.com/daiyongkuaican) and website (http://www.daiyongkuaican.org), since it is impor-tant to make sure that restaurants that offered free meals are honest and qualified. “We don’t want to see any fraud in the good-will move-ment –some restaurants may take the money without actually offering the free meals. That’s why we want to make all the information of these restaurants transparent,”Chen said.
A man surnamed Zhou bought four suspend-ed meals, each worth 8 yuan ($1.29), at Chen’s restaurant last Wednesday.
Knowing there’s such an attempt, a few readers of Suzhou Review sent e-mails to say they agree it would be lovely to see the act of “suspended meal”adopted in Suzhou. Yet they have a few concerns. “It is difficult to be sure the food goes to the people you really want it to go to, the people who really need it,”an American reader told Suzhou Review.
Roy Mackie from Scotland lives in Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP). He said it’s possible but he’s not sure how it works. Maybe people can donate money to a charity when they purchase something, then the charity institution can set up a food hostel where people in poverty can go for free or cheap food. “This might keep the re-al beggars off the street, not the kids scrounging for money with their parents, only wanting money,”Roy pointed out.
Anyway, giving food or drink is so much bet-ter than giving money, said Doug Warner, a British teacher working in SIP. “I saw a beggar get a free meal from a KFC in Suzhou once, and he looked so happy!”Doug said.
If you have any ideas that can help the move-ment go better, let us know by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing well. (Suzhou Daily) Related>> “Suspended meal”movement in China
The People’s Daily, a Chinese mainstream media outlet, reported on April 17 that Chen Li, Deputy-General of Department of Public Secu-rity in Shaanxi province, had started promoting the act of “suspended lunch”over the Internet and in a restaurant in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province.
Chen said he receives messages every day from disadvantaged groups over the microblog asking for help. “I was inspired by the idea of ‘suspended coffee’in the West,”Chen told the People’s Daily. Such act of kindness to a stranger should be encouraged, Chen said.
Chen began to promote “suspended lunch”via microblog on April 12 and received positive response from netizens. A restaurant in Xi’an started to offer “suspended lunch”to tramps and aged citizens in poverty the next day, and encouraged citizens to suspend free meals. An-other three restaurants in Xi’an joined the movement on April 14.
The idea soon became known in other cities. As of April 16, over ten restaurants in nine Chi-nese cities –such as Chongqing, Zhengzhou, Lanzhou and Suzhou –have joined the “sus-pended meal”movement. “Suspended coffee”overseas
According to The Kyiv Post, the idea of “coffee in suspense”has spread to Ukraine. “This international trend of buying two coffees and leaving one ‘in suspense’is a new incarna-tion of an old trend in Naples, Italy, where it is called caffe sospeso,”the newspaper said.
Now, this trend has made its way into about 20 cafes and restaurants in Kyiv. The coffee someone decides to buy is marked on a special board and remains up for grabs for anyone who has no money or simply feels like being treated today.
More than 150 cafes across Bulgaria have al-so joined the goodwill initiative modelled on the Italian “caffe sospeso”tradition, according to a Facebook page to the movement.
Some cafes use a pot of small cards or bottle caps to count the number of coffees already paid for, which can later be claimed.
Apart from cafes, several fast food places and grocery shops have also joined the Bulgari-an initiative, proposing that their clients buy someone a loaf of bread or a snack.
Every Russian who finds themselves in a dif ficult life situation can now have a free cup of coffee and feel the warmth of other people’s care, The Voice of Russia proudly declared in an article on January 7, 2012. Many cafes pro-vide a special social service now, “suspended coffee”, or coffee free of charge.