Boxes of fried rice mixed with egg, and boxes of milk, are seen on a table outside the small shop along Arak Road in tambon Pak Nam Pho of downtown Muang district. There are also three other tables, with boxed meals sold cheaply at 15-20 baht each.
A sign with the message “Free fried rice mixed with egg every morning from Monday to Friday for people made jobless by COVID-19’’ is in front of the stall.
The vendor, Pornphitsanu Phonmathong, 56, said the spread of COVID-19 has affected people from all walks of life, but especially low-income earners. Many have been forced to stop work and others been left jobless by the closure of businesses affected by the virus.
A person who was a regular customer at his food shop recently came to see him and asked for a free meal. He explained that his employer had closed his shop because of the spread of the virus. He had no job and no income because he worked for a daily wage, Mr Pornphitsanu said.
He was moved by his old customer’s plight and by the hardship faced by other low-income earners affected by the epidemic.
This drove him to dig into his savings to buy the ingredients to provide free meals for people suffering under the virus outbreak, particularly those who were jobless. His shop had provided free meals since March 18, from 5am to 7am every weekday.
“After I began providing free meals, other vendors and local businesses with kind hearts came to give me financial support to buy raw ingredients.
"On the first day of free food, I used 4kg of rice and one tray of eggs, vegetables and other ingredients to cook fried rice for free distribution to affected people. However, there was not enough because there are many people now living hand to mouth.
"But after receiving financial support from people, I now use 6kg of rice and three trays of eggs each day to make fried rice, and also buy milk,’’ Mr Pornphitsanu said.
He said he would stop selling food altogether and set his stall to providing free meals for needy people if the coronavirus situation gets worse.