According to The Global Hunger Index 2017 – an index based on factors like the prevalence of undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality – India had been placed at the 100th Position. Although, there has been significant improvements in the daunting figures of child mortality, according to 2015–2016 survey data, more than a fifth (21 percent) of children in India suffer from wasting. When you compare the figures of the United Nations Development Programme that state up to 40% of the food produced in India is wasted, the haunting picture comes into fruition. Even with abundant food, a majority portion of our population stays hungry. This realisation struck three school-going students from New Delhi, currently in grade 12th.
It was just another day, when the South Delhi trio— Ikshita Puri, Vandita Bhartiya and Rhea Kapuria— headed out to a restaurant in the city for an afternoon meal. After having eaten for their stomach’s delight, the plates still seemed to have enough food. Unwilling to waste the delicious food, they got the leftovers packed and exited the restaurant. Just then, a child beggar uttered the three words that changed their lives forever— “Didi, khana dedho” (Can you give me some food). The very moment, they say, struck them with the realization that one man’s leftovers can be another’s meal. While one part of the society relentlessly wastes its abundantly available resources, especially in terms of food, there is, on the other hand, a vulnerable population that starves to death everyday. “The presence of chronic hunger, often a fatal problem, is one of the greatest paradoxes of our time,” read their website, www.projectnohunger.org, “Despite millions of Indians going to bed on a hungry stomach, the country is letting food worth a whopping Rs. 92,000 crore go waste every year. Their initiative began with an aim to not just feed hungry stomachs, “but to bridge the gap between food wastage and hunger.”
Their plan of action began with the task of surveying around 15-20 restaurants in and around North and South Delhi and explaining to them their initiative. “We told them that how their small contribution could make a huge impact to the lives of thousands of needy and asked them for their support,” said the young girls, “We got various responses from different restaurants. Some were very supportive while others said that they gave the leftovers to their staff.”, they added. This was followed by looking out for slums that needed help. After some vigorous fieldwork, the team settled upon serving the Sudhar Camp Village in Kalkaji. On the present day scenario, the girls feed around 500 people residing in the slum. Their work under the initiative gave them a sense of duty to provide the underprivileged with a decent meal.
Starting off as a small unit, who wanted to do their little part for those in a desperate need for food, the trio were greatly supported by not only their parents, but by teachers, friends, relatives. They also added that it was one of their friends’ relative who had been arranging the transportation for delivering the food and that some of the student volunteers have been involved in collection and redistribution of eatables from the restaurants.
“We have spread awareness by establishing incentives in the youth of today. This has helped us to create a community of like-minded people working towards this cause. We have managed to inspire a chain of volunteers to make this initiative self-sustaining and very efficient,” said the trio, speaking of the impact that their initiative has created upon the youth. “Through print media support and recognition, not only restaurants but many bakeries have approached us to help in this cause,” they added.
Apart from the challenge of convincing restaurants to tie up with them, they also faced challenges on their way to achieve zero hunger. Accounting to the enormity of the project, it required more people on board, especially in terms of collection and redistribution of leftovers. The generous support from the side of her family and friends made the process of feeding 500 hungry stomachs easier. Another hurdle was that of transportation. “We were lucky to get a bakery very enthusiastic about our initiative and was extremely willing to help us out in every way possible. However, due to lack of a cold storage in the transport, we could not take foods from them. We are in hope to get sponsorship in the future for the same,” they said.
The girls are enthusiasm to widen the awareness of their initiative through the help of media and campaigns and make their project “self-sufficient”. They are also looking forward to raise funds and contact other schools, so that they can expand their initiative across other slums. “Our message to the youth is that, being privileged, it is our duty to give back to the society in any way possible. Don’t think of yourself as insignificant, even a small contribution can make a big difference. Something you consider small might change someone else’s life,” said the young buds, who aim to “create a ripple effect, inspiring the youth to take steps to minimize hunger by controlling food wastage.”
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