Anna Sudha Community Kitchens is Serving the Community One Plate at a Time


Volunteers at the Anna Sudha Community Kitchen prepare and package food for the local community. (Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Gonzalez)

A fresh sight in comparison to the many closing stores in Dulles Town Center is the newly-opened Anna Sudha Community Kitchen. At the end of the long line of people is the entrance to the kitchen, where volunteers are cooking, packaging, and distributing meals made from scratch to the community.

Anna Sudha Community Kitchens is a volunteer-run non-profit which provides “pay what you can” meals every Monday-Thursday from 11-3pm, with no questions asked. The organization, which employs a few staff, hosts free community meals the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 12-2 pm and 5-8 pm, which are open to any and everyone.

Nupur Panjabi’s idea for starting the non-profit came about in 2021, following some difficult events as a way to bring purpose into her life. “I think the whole period of COVID was a huge upheaval in all our lives. Similarly, in mine, I lost my mother, [I] lost a lot of other things and realized that I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to serving people,” Panjabi said. “Our mission is really to spread love through food.” 

The organization has a large focus on helping those in need in the community, donating to local and international charities, employing some homeless staff, as well as donating meals to shelters in the area through their “Shelter Feeding Program.” 

Anna Sudha Community Kitchen welcomes all volunteers 14 years old and above. Groups, families and individuals can sign up to volunteer their time on the Anna Sudha website, and can select their preferred job, including food prep, cleanup, packaging, or transaction volunteer. “It’s a great opportunity for families to bond. When students come with their families, we see a lot of smiling faces,” Panjabi said. 

Panjabi’s cultural background plays a large part in her passion for serving people. “Food comes very naturally, to all us Indians, it’s a way of expressing love..I always loved feeding people, and I think that is also very inherent in our culture,” Panjabi said. Anna Sudha means pure nourishment in Sanskrit. 

Tvisha Nagar, an 8th grader at Farmwell Station Middle School,  spent the day volunteering with her family. “I like helping people, so I love volunteering, and I also love cooking, so this is like a win-win for me, and so far, it’s really fun,” Nagar said. “Volunteering requires lots of teamwork and cooperation. It’s good for people, if they don’t want to do it alone, then it’s a great thing to do with your friends because then you can hang out but also help out.”

The reach of the kitchen even extends to Fairfax County students who also volunteer. “Seeing the smiles on the customers’ faces…they get really happy about what we’re doing…it’s a great opportunity to help with your life skills, doing things that you don’t really do normally will help you in life later on,” Westfield High School sophomore Jagdish Viswanath said.

The non-profit has a large focus on donating to charities such as LAWS: Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services, and Carpenter’s Shelter, both located in Virginia, as well as Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development, Lotus Petal Foundation, and Sphoorti, all located in India. 

Panjabi moved to the US from India as part of a company move at her previous job, but is running Anna Sudha full-time now. “The most fulfilling part, obviously, has been the feeling that we have fed people in need. The most challenging part has just been the balancing act between the expenses and revenue. Because we did not start with a business plan, or it was not like a well thought venture, it was more an emotional decision,” Panjabi said.