No one sleeps hungry in this Turkish town of Karakocan!! Thanks to the Merkez Restaurant

Merkez Restaurant

The Turkish town of Karakocan has many business establishments. But one that draws attention is the Merkez Restaurant, where those in need are invited to eat free of charge. It keeps at least three tables reserved for the needy, even during rush hour when his restaurant is packed. The tradition has been carried down from generation to generation for decades.

Mehmet Ozturk, 55, the owner of Merkez, says at least 15 people come to his restaurant every day to receive a free meal. Galip, who is suffering from mental illness is one of the familiar faces at the restaurant, has eaten there every day for the last 10 years.

The Merkez is my favorite place in town, because the food is great, said Galip.

The tradition to feed the needy for free first started in the 1940s at the Merkez Restaurant, one of the first eateries in town, when the former owners started offering free meals to the needy every day. The practice was quickly picked up by other restaurants in the area. Now, around 100 people eat for free each day across the whole town, which is home to around 28,000 people.

I remember Hacı Huseyin, the former owner of the restaurant, and witnessed his enthusiasm when I was waiting tables at a very young age. He used to look for needy people to feed on the streets, bring them in groups to the restaurant sometimes three, sometimes five times a day, Ozturk says.

Hasan Gulbasan is the owner of the restaurant Saray Lokantasi. Gulbasan says he started to receive calls from strangers across Turkey who wanted to thank him after learning of the tradition.