Over 20 crore people in India, which is almost the entire population of Pakistan, sleeps hungry daily. And over 3,000 infants die due to malnutrition and hunger every day, Subhash Talekar of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association says.
What is ironic and a gross tragedy – the agriculture ministry reports that food produced worth Rs. 50,000 crore is wasted every year in this very country.
While tackling food wastage and hunger on a humongous scale may seem a distant goal to many, a former police commissioner, a London-based chartered accountant, and the iconic dabbawalas in Mumbai have joined hands to ‘wage a fight against hunger’ in their own way through the Roti bank platform.
What is the Roti Bank Platform?
It began as a part of the dabbawalas movement to help fight hunger by delivering leftover food from restaurants to those who couldn’t even afford one decent meal like street urchins and pavement dwellers.
Up and running for the last two years, this initiative has been reaching out to over 300 people daily.
These dabbawalas identified and pinned hunger spots on their own maps across Mumbai. If there were any calls for additional leftover food at eating joints, households, functions, and events, the dabbawalas would pick it up in their van and give it to pavement dwellers in Parel near the Tata Hospital.
“There are 5,000 dabbawalas in the city. About 200 used to work on this earlier, but we were still not able to get food for the needy,” said Subhash Talekar according to an India Today report.
Read more: Right to Food ensured by this Roti Bank
To tackle this issue and amplify the scale, Retired IPS officer D Sivanandan and UK-based NRI businessman Nitin Khanapurkar launched the ‘Mumbai Roti Bank’ recently in association with the dabbawalas, where GPS-tracked vans would collect excess food from various eating joints, households, functions and school canteens and distribute it among underprivileged hungry people across Mumbai.
The initiative was kickstarted after retired IPS officer Sivanandan, who served as the Mumbai Police Commissioner and Maharashtra’s Director General Police (DGP) donated the first van for the project at Lower Parel station to set the ball rolling.
The ‘Mumbai Roti Bank’ is expected to roll out more three-four food vans.
So, the next time you come across a large quantity of food left in your kitchen, dial 8655580001 or 9111891118 and feed it to someone in dire need of it.
“People and organisations who have excess food to spare can call up a 24×7 helpline (No: 9111891118 | Website: www.rotibankindia.org) and provide the location from where the excess food has to be picked up. We will do the rest,” D Shivanandan said.
Currently, two dabbawalas will be travelling in the van from 4 pm to 2 am to collect food from places that wish to contribute. These timings have been chosen wisely as this cycle (post lunch and before and after dinner), will increase the probability of leftover food.
What is commendable is that these volunteers aren’t charging a penny to offer their service, but are truly fighting hunger across the city!