On April 19, Jennifer, an American expat based in Shanghai, placed an order on the Meituan food delivery app with no contact name for the drop-off — just an approximate address: “Under Wuning Bridge.”
Jennifer, who asked RADII not to give her last name, also included a note with the meal, stating, “This is for people sleeping below decks. If you could, please call me.
Shanghai has been his home for nine years. The city is currently fighting an uphill battle against the Omicron variant of Covid-19, which has forced the government to containment residents and considerably limit travel in the metropolis of more than 26 million inhabitants for almost a month. The strict measures have also seen some essential workers stranded at their workplaces or locked out of their apartment complexes.
Straddling the Suzhou Stream in Shanghai’s Putuo District, the landmark precisely known as the Wuning Road Bridge can be identified by its four Ionic orders and golden motherhood-themed statues.
The bridge – adjacent to Jennifer’s old address – came to Jennifer’s attention via a disturbing video. In the images, dozens of delivery drivers take refuge under the framework of the structure. The workers were apparently stranded after leaving the compound of their homes and buildings.
By a cruel twist of fate, these essential frontline workers — who feed the city — had come up against the problem of feeding themselves.
Deeply concerned about their harsh living conditions, Jennifer designated Wuning Bridge as the drop-off location for the aforementioned Meituan food order. It doesn’t matter who would receive it specifically, and she tells RADII that she prayed the delivery guy knew the area.
“I don’t think food will be wasted at a time like this,” she says. “And it doesn’t matter who’s there, whether it’s a cleaner or a delivery driver. I just decided to send food in this direction.
Coincidentally, the driver who picked up the order — whose last name is Zhu, Jennifer says — was someone camping below deck. After a quick call, the two connected on WeChat. They are now arranging bulk orders for other drivers who are out of luck.
Jennifer and Zhu’s roles are clear: she orders meal boxes containing a balanced mix of rice, protein and vegetables, while Zhu facilitates food deliveries and oversees a WeChat group with a self-help community.
“Someone messaged the band saying they needed some drums. And then someone else said, ‘I’m around. I can help,'” Jennifer shares. As a member of the group, she has witnessed extraordinary acts of generosity and met other kind-hearted people who go above and beyond.
“Another person had their blanket and suitcase stolen. He was very frustrated and was trying to post photos of nearby street cleaners who he believed might have stolen his stuff. The rest of the group calmed him down and said, ‘Hey, don’t do anything stupid right now. Don’t worry, I’ll buy you a new blanket,” she recalled.
“It was really great to see the community we’ve built as well as the community they’ve built with each other.”
Along with her husband, Jennifer began telling her friends about the plight of the delivery drivers in Shanghai in a bid to raise funds. “We only sent it to about 30 friends, but all of them donated, and we were able to raise over 10,000 RMB in less than three hours that night,” she tells us.
Thanks to donations, Jennifer was able to provide food to stranded workers for about two weeks.
Unfortunately, on April 23, those living under Wuning Bridge dispersed and took refuge elsewhere after being approached by police officers.
“The chief delivery person called me and said, ‘I really thank you for the meals for the past few days, but we can’t go to Wuning Bridge anymore. So you don’t need to order food now,” says Jennifer.
Nonetheless, she continued to feed them by relaying a designated drop-off point.
Other commendable actions by Jennifer and her husband include providing water, masks and other necessities to delivery drivers.
“Often, delivery drivers are overlooked,” says Jennifer. “Those who are considered ‘workers’ – whether they are delivery drivers or security guards – are generally exploited.”
It is true that delivery drivers in China work in precarious conditions. Along with risking traffic accidents and trying to race against time, they face the brunt of delivery algorithms.
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Cover image via VCG; additional photos courtesy of Jennifer