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Hygienic and tasty

Hygienic and tasty
The grocery truck is vital in these uncertain times.

In general, the daily life of Bangkokians who are staying at home in a concerted effort to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus is not too bad.

People who cannot cook or are unable to prepare their own meals due to whatever reasons can order any kind of dishes online and have them delivered to their home at any time. They can order their favourite foods from hundreds of restaurants around the city. They can also be assured that hygienic and tasty food will be brought to them at a certain time by reliable delivery services.

In contrast, people living in the city outskirts are facing some difficulties. Not all householders have a solid financial footing. Their houses are varied in characteristics. Having to stay at home for a long time, diet can become a real challenge for them, as they are facing limited options regarding both foodstuff and delivery.

The housing in Bangkok’s periphery comprise single houses, detached units and townhouses. There are apartments, condominiums and crowded communities located near factories or industrial estates. Under normal circumstances, people living in single houses leave home in the morning by car or public transport for work in Bangkok. Parents with young children drop off their kids at school on their way to work. In the afternoon most students return home by themselves, while others are picked up by their grandparents or older relatives. Some families are lucky enough to have someone staying at home to prepare dinner for them. Many others who do not have such luxury stop by food shops or the markets nearby to buy ready-cooked dishes for dinner.

People living in an apartment or condominium with limited space are not allowed to cook, a common measure enforced by the building management to prevent fire accidents, and thus have to rely entirely on buying ready-made meals or takeaway food from eateries nearby.

Outside Bangkok, food shops and food stalls selling standard dishes such as curry with rice, khao kha moo, khao man gai, khao moo daeng, noodles and cooked-to-order dishes are located in markets or talat nat and petrol stations. There are also food shops offering southern-style or northeastern dishes everywhere. Those small food outlets offer food at a relatively cheap price.

When staying in place has been going on for weeks, people need to make plans about their meals which conform to the changing circumstances, social conditions and state measures that might disrupt their way of life as well as the operation of all concerned. All parties must be prepared and adjusted accordingly.

Adjustment, however, is not too complicated. Existing communication apps make it easy for both buyers and vendors. Buyers simply join Line groups created by food vendors. The vendors can post a list of dishes for the group members to order in advance. Buyers can pick up the dishes on their way home without having to worry that the food might not be ready when they arrive at the shop.

Buying meals in the market is deemed less safe.

Food shops and restaurants that offer takeaway dishes can use similar techniques. Diners do not have to go the shop but can order the meals online or by mobile appl and have them delivered to their place. Delivery rate is based on the distance. If they cannot find a delivery man, they can call a motorcycle taxi stationed at the entrance of the alley leading to their homes. The drivers will be more than willing to serve, as the number of passengers has dwindled since the start of the virus outbreak and worsened by the social-distancing measure.

Food delivery requires honesty and hygienic handling on the part of delivery persons. They must wear masks and use a clean, temperature-controlled container or box. When delivering the food, they need to keep some distance between themselves and customers for safety.

A long-existing food source is the grocery truck that has serviced people living on the outskirts of Bangkok for years. The trucks are fully loaded with virtually everything that each household would need.

In the past this kind of grocery truck did not receive a warm welcome by housing estates, as they were equipped with noisy amplifiers and looked unhygienic.

Nowadays these trucks are allowed to enter residential areas. They are required to park at designated locations at specific times. Vendors and buyers are required to strictly wear a mask and leave sufficient space between each other while selecting goods and making payments.

Buyers and sellers have to rely on each other more than ever in this time of crisis. For some items not available as usual, buyers can place orders in advance, e.g. drinking water, charcoal and packs of beer. It is a win-win situation for all. Better than saving time and expense from travelling is the fact buyers can reduce the risks of exposing themselves to potential carriers. In the meantime, the vendors can make some profit and earn some extra money from tips.

Each community is operating under a unique environmental and social context. There are no magic approaches that are suitable for all communities. But whatever methods are employed, safety must come first and foremost.

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