Excess food meets empty stomachs

Ankit Kawatra once attended a grand wedding which had nearly 10,000 attendees and over 35 cuisines. Amazed at the surplus quantity, he wondered what would happen to the food and decided to stay back — a decision which led to the conceptualisation of Feeding India, a not-for-profit social enterprise that aims to connect two major social problems — hunger and food waste — as a solution for each other.

“I witnessed heaps of leftover food, which could have easily fed 5,000 people, being sent straight to the bin. I thought if it was not going to be me who solves this challenge; it was not going to be anyone else. There was no point waiting. At 23, I have the courage; might not have the right experience to do it right away but I really needed to take up the cause and start solving it. I just took the jump. I quit my job and started Feeding India,” Kawatratells Metrolife.

With its mission to direct every ounce of excess edible food towards ending hunger, Feeding India channelises surplus food from individuals, weddings, restaurants,
corporate offices to people who really need it and have no means of access.

“Our belief is that we do not need to create new food to feed the less privileged, but to simply direct the already created extra food. We also tackle the problem at its roots, where we encourage people not to waste food at all,” Kawatra adds.

According to the United Nations, hunger kills more people in India every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, and at the same time nearly 40 per cent of food goes waste in the country annually. Founded in 2014, the enterprise has partnered with corporate offices, caterers, restaurants, event organisers for regular supply of food, and has served close to 2,50,000 people.

“More than anything, it is upsetting to see huge quantities of food being thrown and becomes more of a concern when you know that at the same time there are people sleeping hungry. So who will take this extra food and donate it to the needy? There was an urgent need to bridge this gap,” explains Srishti Jain, a core team member.

She adds that the enterprise creates a four-fold impact on the society by ensuring “more equitable distribution of food (economic), enabling wholesome meals to the hungry
(nutritional), providing access to nutritious food to the needy who can then devote more time to income-generating activities creating socially stable households (social) and channelising excess resources to be put to better use reducing carbon
 footprint (environmental).”

Elaborating on their operating model, Jain tells Metrolife that the team springs into action on receiving a call from an individual/caterer/restaurant/corporate owner organising an event with a guest size more than 50 people.

She adds that extra precautions are taken to ensure best quality and nutritious food is served and hence the volunteers check its standard twice — first while picking up the food and again before donating.

“As soon as we receive a call we contact the nearest hunger hero (volunteer) to pickup (the food) and locate the nearest shelter home for donation. The shelter home is chosen on the basis of the food type and quantity. Like, spicy wedding food will not be donated to a shelter home for the elderly,” says Jain. “Also, if the quantity is more, we will locate a shelter home which has sufficient number of people. The volunteer reaches the source of food collection with the utensils/gloves/mask/hair cap and performs the first quality check. He then transports it to the nearest shelter home where the second
quality check is done. We have partnered with shelter homes which are 24x7 open so that we can donate food even during odd hours after collecting it from wedding functions. If not, we store it in our cold storage unit,” Jain says.

Adding, Kawatra says that Feeding India has food technologists on board who have prepared a checklist to assess the quality of food on parameters such as taste, smell and texture. “We only pick up food which is 100 per cent safe, nutritious and untouched. The food we pick up is which is created in excess and not served yet,” he says.

Headquartered in Delhi, the enterprise has city/university/school chapters in over 15 cities. Starting with a team of three in August 2014, they have more than 800 student volunteers as of today.

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