Keeping it cool, fresh: how a charity turns leftovers into meals for poor

There can never be anything cooler than finding a functioning fridge in the open, stacked with food that anyone can taste for no cost.

Come Sunday, people in BTM Layout, especially those who cannot afford a meal, will find precisely that: a fridge in the open with food stacked, and some fresh cool water to boot. The "public fridge" has been installed near an apartment in the area.

A brainchild of Chennai-based Public Foundation, the idea of a public fridge is to let households feed the poor with leftover food rather than dumping it in the garbage bin.

Founder of Public Foundation and an enthusiastic advocate of the public fridge concept, Issa Fatima Jasmine was dismayed to watch people dump large amounts of leftover food after letting them rot in their own refrigerators for days.

"In the metros, it is not just the poor, but even those landing in search of jobs that need good food," Issa said. "The newcomers spend their money on stay and commute and have no money at all for good food. They're also too embarrassed to ask."

Having installed a public fridge in Chennai and running it successfully, Issa wanted to take the idea to other metros, and Bengaluru was the next obvious choice.

Bala Harish Kumar, a senior executive with a corporate house, reached out to Issa after reading about the open fridge initiative.

"I grew up watching people dump leftover dishes in the garbage, which used to pain me," Kumar said. "I always wanted to do something about it. Reading about Issa on the internet was the cue to have a public fridge in Bengaluru."

With towering apartment buildings and a slum area close by, BTM Layout presented an ideal place to implement the public fridge concept. "There're also lot of construction workers who can't afford a decent meal, which makes this location more perfect," Kumar added.

People can donate vegetarian food only, as meat dishes have an awfully shorter shelf life. Donors should label the food with the name of the dish and the expiry date while leaving it in the fridge. They can also deposit fruit juice and fresh water.

Donors can also put used clothes and books for the poor in the open cupboard installed near the fridge. A security guard will be assigned to the refrigerator to ensure it remains in place.

The public fridge will be installed on Sunday near Cotha Life Apartment,  Dollar Layout, BTM Stage 2.

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