Around the world, free meals have been making it into the mouths of the hungry at an impressive scale. In New York public schools, lunches are free of charge. Soup kitchens, like La Soupe in Cincinnati, are growing in abundance across the nation. This modest Anatolian town is home to Merkez restaurant, which offers free meals to the poor.
On any given day, [owner Mehmet] Ozturk says at least 15 people come to his restaurant to receive a free meal. According to residents, around 100 people eat for free each day across the whole town, which is home to around 28,000 people.
Merkez owners have been serving free meals for a healthy 70 years. Menu items include rice, chicken, soup, and, of course, kebabs. On Islamic holidays, Merkez provides feasts at no cost to the entire town of Karakocan.
“No matter who you ask in Elazig, they will tell you about Karakocan’s generosity,” [says Hasan Gulbasan, restaurant manager in Karakocan.]
Karakocan has aided causes for Syria’s Aleppo as well as victims of the Van earthquake in 2011. Many claim to engage in philanthropic activities for the sake of barakah (blessings), but are also just inherently giving. If there is one thing this little Turkish community can preach, it’s that generosity never gets old.