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'Suspended meals' offer aid with dignity

By Ma Lie and Lu Hongyan (China Daily)

08:22, April 24, 2013

"Suspended meal" programs, a new way to give food to people in need, have plenty of donors — now they just have to get the word out to worthy recipients.

Victor Kao, a restaurant owner in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, felt bad that he has had 114 suspended meals available for people in need since the program started on April 13, but has given out only 11.

Suspended meals are offered to needy customers who ask for them. They are paid for by other customers in advance when they buy their own meals.

"I had to stop receiving offers from kindhearted people and make an effort to send the meals to the people who need them," Kao said on Monday in his restaurant in a residential community in the city's high-tech zone.

Kao decided at the beginning of the program that he would stop receiving payment for suspended meals when he had 100 because he did not want others to think the offers were for his own benefit.

He said that he started to contact universities to see if students from poverty-stricken families could come to his restaurant to get suspended meals.

"If nobody comes to take the prepaid lunches, we will stop the program and donate them to those in need in the community," Kao said.

Kao, who was born in Taiwan in 1964, started to manage the restaurant, Yushang Cultural Kitchen, about six months ago. He got the idea of suspended meals from the micro blog of Chen Li, deputy director of the Shaanxi Public Security Department.

On April 12, Chen posted on his micro blog that he hoped a suspended-meal program could be started to provide dinner to people who need assistance.

Chen said in his micro blog that his concept for suspended meals came from "suspended coffee", which was born in the cafes of the Italian city of Naples.

The idea has become an international Internet sensation, with coffee shops in Europe and North America participating. The Facebook page alone has more than 28,000 likes.

After reading Chen's micro blog, Kao decided to provide the suspended meal in his restaurant on April 13.

"My suspended meals are provided at noon. Customers having lunch in my restaurant can provide an order of braised pork rice for needy people to eat later," Kao said.

The normal price of the meal is 16 yuan ($2.60) per customer, but 10 yuan for the suspended meal, which is the cost without profit, Kao said.

"We don't think it's a charity, and we will not decide whether a recipient of a suspended meal is really in need or not. We provide it with dignity," Kao said.

Cheng Yu, a white-collar worker in the high-tech zone, said that she will go to the restaurant to buy an extra lunch for those in need and will be glad to help others in this manner.

Like Kao, owners of 26 restaurants in Beijing, Chongqing, Zhengzhou, Lanzhou, Nanjing and Xi'an, have participated in the program to pass love on to strangers who need help, Chen said.

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