Food scavengers in India: Individuals, restaurants to the rescue

Community fridges combat food wastage to feed the poor

Society

March 17, 2018

/ By / New Delhi



According to the UN, every third malnourished child is Indian, yet hundreds of tons of food is wasted across India every day

According to the UN, every third malnourished child is Indian, yet hundreds of tons of food is wasted across India everyday

While many in India are ignorant about inclusion and rehabilitation of the poor and hungry, there are cafes, restaurants and individuals pan India, who are recognising the need to provide necessities for the population.

Small, foiled food packages are ready to deliver as Manju Mithani, resident of a housing society in west Delhi collects them from a box saying ‘Roti Bank’ (chapati bank) to take them to the residents of a slum area nearby.

“I always wanted to feed the needy but then how much could I do alone everyday. So I thought of installing a community food donor box near the entrance of the apartment into which residents can contribute food items. These aren’t a mix of leftovers; I insist people on cooking a little extra so that they can spare some fresh food,” Mithani told the Media India Group.

While many are ignorant about the plight of the poor, there are others who haven’t turned a blind eye towards them. Along with individuals, more and more organisations in India are taking their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) seriously and are contributing towards the upliftment of the poor.

Upon entering the Kadavanthara Road in Kochi, Kerala, you will come across a community fridge under a Cassia Fistula tree. Minu Pauline, owner of the adjacent restaurant – Pappadavada, installed the fridge for individuals, party organisers, event managers and restaurant owners to deposit leftovers, but fresh and eatable food.

Calling it Nanma Maram (giving tree) the restaurant bears the cost of the fridge and electricity, and keeps it open for 24 hours, every day. In fact, seeing as how sometimes there’s excess food in households, which end up in their own fridge, sometimes for days, Pauline urges people to give it away for the homeless. Similarly, Rasoi (Kitchen) on Wheels in New Delhi run by Atul Kapur – co-owner of the Q’BA restaurant in Connaught Place, delivers freshly prepared meals for the poor and needy, which is then delivered in a van.

These initiatives haven’t gone out of notice as the dabbawalas in Mumbai have also tied up with various restaurants and caterers to collect excess leftover food so that it reaches the poor and needy.

This January, during the Tata Mumbai Marathon, these dabbawalas ran to promote and raise awareness about ‘Roti Bank’, an initiative they started in 2016. Under the Roti Bank, they have set up a dedicated call centre where people can inform if they have excess food. It is then collected and distributed to the homeless.

Not a smooth bake

According to a report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, every third malnourished child is Indian, yet hundreds of tons of food is wasted across India every day.

India can acquire from other countries, which are already moving towards reduction of food wastage. For instance, restaurants in France are legally obliged to provide diners with a carry bag. Similarly, the Scottish government provides free carry bags to restaurants in the country, and the United Kingdom has a food waste supermarket wherein consumers can purchase food discarded by supermarkets and food businesses, on a pay-as-you-feel basis.

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