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Food for thought

Many Good Samaritans, individuals as well as organisations, have been working to help feed the hungry in our country, which ranks 100 out of 119 on the Global Hunger Index23 Mar 2019 | 6:44 AM

The Delhi Government recently drafteda policy to check wastage of foodat social functions in the NCR.

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Aprajita Monga

The Delhi Government recently drafted a policy to check wastage of food at social functions in the NCR. All organisers and caterers will have to register themselves with NGOs to manage the surplus food for distribution among the underprivileged

Nitika Saini, Hiteshi Arora and Ishita Choudhary are no ordinary students. The three NSS volunteers and Panjab University students from the Social Works Department were recently awarded by the Mayor of Chandigarh for donating excess food from hostels. The students have started a drive to collect leftover green vegetables from hostel messes and shops at the university’s student centre and donate it to a cow shelter in the city. Their daily collection is more than 150 kg. Dr Gaurav Gaur, assistant professor, Center for Social Work, Panjab University, has been leading the campaign.

In a country which has an estimated 195.9 million undernourished people, food wastage remains an issue. Many individuals and organisations have been working to create a balance by feeding the surplus food to the needy. Among these is the Robin Hood Army. The ‘Robins’ or volunteers of the organisation, which has operations in 103 cities across 12 countries, gather surplus food from restaurants, which is then served to the less fortunate ones. More than nine million people have benefited since the organisation was established in New Delhi in 2014 by Neel Ghose and Anand Sinha.

According to Ghose, “The problem is not lack of food. It’s the lack of access to food.” The organisation doesn’t accept any monetary donations. 

“We have tie-ups with restaurants all over the Tricity. These include Pal Dhaba, Classic 35, Pik-n-Move, Kelong and Lalit Hotel”, says Shibani Verma, head of the Chandigarh chapter of the RHA. 

Another name that figures among the list of food donors is that of Jagdish Lal Ahuja, popularly known as PGI’s Langar Baba. Ahuja, who has been donating food in front of the PGI, Chandigarh, for the past 19 years, says, “Main mandir nahin jana, gurdwara nahin jana, ehi mera mandir gurdwara hai (I don’t go to temple or gurdwara. This is my place of worship”. To follow his calling, he even sold off many of his properties. He brings food for around 700 persons every day. They are served rice, roti, dal and halwa. A long hard battle against cancer, too, didn’t come in the way of his calling. 

Delhi-based Feeding India, too, has been working towards finding an innovative solution to the hunger problem. The initiative was started by Ankit Kawatra when he saw food that could feed 1,000 persons  getting wasted after a wedding. The volunteers or ‘hunger heroes’ collect food from weddings and events and distribute it at various shelter homes. As part of its #FightFoodWaste campaign, the NGO has set up 500 ‘Happy Fridges’ across 100 cities in the country for the needy. The food collected from public residences is labelled and kept in these fridges. This food can be collected free of cost. Similarly, people who want to donate can put food packets in the fridge. The Delhi Government recently drafted a policy to check wastage of food at social functions in the NCR. All organisers and caterers will now have to register themselves with NGOs to manage the surplus food for distribution among the underprivileged.


Rahul Devesh

Just Rs 32. This is the number that defines the poverty line in urban India. Over the years, our governments have kept the poverty figures low to hide their inability to provide three basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter to 22 per cent of the population, a modest estimate of the poor living below the divide.

There are, however, some Good Samaritans, who have made lives of the poor bearable with their tiny but noble initiatives. One such enterprise is the Roti Bank that feeds hundreds of people each day.

An idea mooted by Narwana resident, Balwinder Nain, the initiative feeds a large number of the needy in nine cities, including the City Beautiful. Its specialty is that you need not pay anything for the service, which has been running successfully with the help of city residents and a group of dedicated workers for the past three years.

Bishan Singh, along with his colleague, rises early. The two leave their booth, which is behind the GMCH-32 around 8 am, to collect flour and vegetables. From there, the raw material is taken to a kitchen in Ram Darbar, where Balwinder Kaur, a widow, and her two daughters cook food for more than 500 persons every day.  They don’t charge a penny to do this  noble work.

Exactly at 12.30 pm, a vehicle carrying cooked food arrives in front of the GMCH-32. Adorned by a banner appealing to people to contribute for the noble cause, the vehicle is soon surrounded by the beneficiaries.  

The food truck attracts one and all. People from  various strata of society can be seen gathered in front of the vehicle. Be it children, women, labourers or those belonging to the lower middle class, all can be seen relishing the hygienically prepared food.

Interestingly, to connect with as many people as possible, its managers have devised an idea of celebrating the contributor’s birthday. According to Vikas Kumar, one of its managers, by contributing just Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000, one can help feed around 500 persons every day. 

One such contributor was Sheenu Palta, a schoolteacher, who turned up with her aged mother to celebrate her birthday with the needy. She says, “I wanted to do this for a long time. I came to know about it at the school. It is a great way to come to the rescue of those left untouched by social handicaps and welfare schemes.”


Now share medicines too

Enlarging their sphere of welfare, Ashwani, one of the managers of Roti Bank, says they have started accepting medicines for distribution among the needy. “Any medicine not being used can be given to us and we will provide these to the organisations working for free treatment of patients. Recently, we collected medicines worth around Rs 40,000 from our collection box at Bhavan Vidyalaya School in Sector 27, Chandigarh. One such box has been installed at Paradise Society, Sector 50. Anybody can contact us for the installation of our collection box to contribute to the cause,” he added.

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