This food drive is not about getting rid of your leftovers. It‘s about cooking specially for someone you don’t know. The joy you will get is its own reward.
When cooking at home for your family or yourself, cook some extra food that can serve a few people, pack it neatly, and wait. After some time, there will be someone at your doorstep to pick the food up and deliver it to the homeless people in your locality. But, if you can go yourself, you will get the additional bonus of watching the joy on the faces of the people who receive the food, and earn their blessings too!
How difficult does this process sound? If you ask the members of a Facebook group called Food Bank—Chennai, it is very easy.
Initiated by Sneha Mohandoss, a 23-year-old visual communication student who is currently working in an event management organization, this group is a place to connect people who want to help the homeless with home cooked, nutritious food in Chennai.
“It is like posting about your extra food. This means, not your leftovers but good food which is not being wasted because it is unwanted,” explains Sneha.
Today, the group has more than 2,000 members, and it is growing as a community of people who want to contribute in their own ways. Influenced by her grandfather, who used to carry out similar food distribution drives on different occasions, Sneha wanted to develop a platform where everyone who is willing to help can participate.
“My idea is that everyone should get a chance to take up the initiative in their own areas,” she says.
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The first step for anyone who wants to participate in the food drive is to post on the group, letting people know about the extra meals being prepared at their place, and mentioning the area they are located in.
If another person is already conducting a drive nearby, the two people are connected on the group.
If the person who is cooking is not in a position to go out and deliver, then someone else who can, and is located nearby, will contact him/her.
Sneha and other people in the group also take the responsibility of connecting volunteers with one another when required.
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Around the same time when this group was being formed, something very similar happened with Aarti Madhusudhan, a resident of Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai. Aarti had gone out on a drive with a group called the Robin Hood Army, which takes excess food from hotels and restaurants and gives it to the homeless. That day, she realised for the first time that there are so many homeless people sleeping hungry in Chennai, and this reality was completely unacceptable to her.
Aarti, who is not a very big fan of cooking personally, decided that once every week she would cook something nutritious for at least 4-5 people, and give it to the homeless.
“The picture in my mind was that at least five people will get a home cooked, healthy meal once every week,” she says.
Next, Aarti put up a status about her decision on Facebook, asking people if they would be willing to join her. She received an overwhelming response, with many of her friends and strangers writing back that they would be happy to cook and volunteer too. Aarti quickly realised that if there were people willing to pick up the prepared food from some of these houses, many more individuals would be willing to join in. She also came to know about Food Bank–Chennai from people on Facebook.
Drives like these are creating a ripple effect all over the country.
“It is very exciting. Anybody and go out at any point, look around in their locality, get an idea of homeless people there, and cook for them. I came to know that in Mumbai somebody has started a similar drive,” says Aarti.
Aarti credits her family and her school too for teaching her that one has to give back to society. “For me, the food drive is not about the recipient. It is about the giver. To think about a person you don’t know, and become a better person on account of that.” She remembers how in one of the drives, a homeless person’s first response on receiving food was – “Will you eat with me?” This humility stunned and amazed Aarti.
Another member of the Food Bank—Chennai group, Selva Ganapathy, participates in these drives by delivering the food after picking it up from houses. By talking to the recipients often, Selva has heard many touching stories. He has observed the many of the homeless people are elderly, some who have been abandoned by their families. Currently, he is trying to map certain areas in Chennai to find out for how long homeless people have lived there, why they live there, what they do, etc. He wants to create a database that can perhaps be of some use in helping them.
To know more about Food Bank – Chennai, visit here.