Children eat a free spaghetti meal at Muncheez restaurant in Petionville, Haiti, outside Port-au-Prince. The restaurant has been giving away free food to Haitians since the earthquake.
Children eat a free spaghetti meal at Muncheez restaurant in Petionville, Haiti, outside Port-au-Prince. The restaurant has been giving away free food to Haitians since the earthquake. Tamara Keith/NPR
Two weeks after the earthquake in Haiti, the situation is still desperate for many. International aid groups are distributing food, yet many Haitians say they still are not getting the help they need.
But some in Port-au-Prince aren't waiting for outside help. At one restaurant on the outskirts of town, neighbors are helping neighbors.
Muncheez is open for business. But it's nothing like it was before the earthquake.
The corner pizza place that was too expensive for most Haitians to enjoy is now serving rice and beans, chicken, spaghetti — anything the owners can get their hands on — and it's all free.
Co-owner Gilbert Bailly says it started the day after the earthquake when he realized his ingredients would spoil before anyone would have the wherewithal to buy a pizza.
"So instead of losing the food, we said let's cook the food and give it away to people that need it. And then two days after, we were running out of diesel, running out of gas, running out of food. We had people that has businesses and started to bring food to us. And we are doing that since," Bailly says.
Haitians line up for free food at Muncheez. The pizza parlor that was once too expensive for most Haitians is now serving whatever food the owners can get their hands on.
Haitians line up for free food at Muncheez. The pizza parlor that was once too expensive for most Haitians is now serving whatever food the owners can get their hands on. Tamara Keith/NPR
When donations from other businesses in the neighborhood ran out, Bailly's nephew gathered money from friends and brought in a truckload of food from the Dominican Republic. Now, Bailly has a page on Facebook and is trying to get additional help through the online social network.
"As long as I have stuff to give, I am going to keep doing it. It keeps myself busy. It gives me hope," he says.
Around Port-au-Prince, in small ways, people are doing the same thing, sharing food with their neighbors and trying to stretch every morsel.
Muncheez is feeding about 1,000 people a day. Lines are wrapped around the building when the restaurant opens its doors in the late afternoon. Some people wait for hours.
Leonce Bell, 40, has been served a plate of spaghetti and a cup of water. When the earthquake hit, he lost his house and his job. Now his family is living in a public park with thousands of others where food is hard to come by.
"It's been a long time since I have eaten. The water, we find it easily. When they are giving out food to the people, they are fighting for it and sometimes it's not even enough," Bell says.
Bell says he hasn't eaten in three days. But he doesn't plan to touch the plate of food he is holding: He's saving it for his child.
"It is amazing, because I can find food easily here — where in other places I cannot find any," he says.
World Vision, an international aid group, recently found out about the improvised soup kitchen at Muncheez and is bringing trucks carrying sacks of dry food.
Now, along with their meal, people get bags of bulgur and lentils to take back to their families. Bailly hopes it eases some of the pain.