By Ankit Kawatra:
One night as I was attending a wedding (lavish as they all are in Delhi), I had the option to choose and eat from 35 cuisines from around the world. I was curious to know what would happen to all the untouched, safe to consume food after the guests had left. I spoke with the caterer and was shocked to hear that all that food would be thrown away. What was even more shocking was the fact that all the food that was being thrown away could feed 10,000 people.
Days passed, and I couldn’t get over the thought that so much food was being wasted in a country that has the highest number of undernourished people in the world. When I shared my concerns with colleagues and friends, they told me that this was a way of life. They pointed out to me that If I wanted to do something about this problem, it would mean an end to my career in management. Everyone I spoke with about this, looked down on the work done by nonprofits and charities. Social work was something that should be left to ‘certain people’ in the society and not the ‘bright’ ones, they said.
I found it unacceptable that millions in the country die not because they can’t find a cure to a rare disease, but because they can’t find a plate of nutritious food to eat. I strongly believe that problems that plague our country need to be solved by everyone; it’s our collective responsibility. With adequate planning, ordinary people can contribute to the making/creation of sustainable solutions.
I was just 22 when I started, and I had no experience or professional training in the social sector. I urged my friends to help me obtain extra consumable food so that I could serve it to those who needed it. By the time 2014 came to an end, I had managed to convince five people in my network to volunteer, and that’s how Feeding India (FI) came into being.
Starting off with just five volunteers with the aim to end hunger and malnutrition in India, I began partnering with caterers in the city and served food to those who couldn’t earn for themselves.
Half of what we do is redistribute extra consumable food from caterers, corporates, households, restaurants, etc. to people in need and the other half is by serving meals to beneficiaries through our own kitchens.
Feeding India has a network of 2,000 volunteers in 28 cities in the country. We have served one a million meals till date.
Feeding India tries to serve meals to the needy who have little or no access to food or those who can’t earn for themselves including children, the elderly and the specially abled. One of our focus areas is to serve meals to children in NGO-run schools. We want to be able to assist these children in leading healthier lives so that they can focus on better education and future.
FI is also eco-friendly. By preventing food from being thrown in ever growing landfills, FI also prevents the production of methane gas.
I was honoured to be one of the 17 UN Young Leaders. During my sessions at the UN headquarters and the 71st General Assembly, I got the opportunity to learn a lot from the experiences that everybody shared, including world leaders. Fortunately, I was also able to raise other issues that we face in India. I also attended Goal 2: Zero Hunger, an event that focused especially on ending hunger globally.
I brought back with me tonnes of experience that will help me better direct and mobilise the young in the country through Feeding India to solve the problem of hunger.