It all started with Ankit Kawatra getting upset because food for a thousand people was wasted at a wedding. So he created a network of 750 Hunger Heroes in 20 cities, who have fed 2.5 lakh hungry people already.
“It was a fancy party at my friend’s place. The buffet had over 30 varieties of dishes and sweets. The hosts left no stone unturned to make sure the party was a big success. Being a close friend, I decided to stay back after the party and help them clean up. And I saw so many plates of food getting wasted. The caterer just dumped all the leftover food in a huge garbage bag and threw it away. We initially thought of donating the food to the needy but didn’t know how and where,” recalls Kriti Gupta from Jaipur.
There are many of us like Kriti who often don’t know what to do with food leftover from a wedding or party. Ankit Kawatra from Delhi was one such person. Until he attended a wedding where he saw food that could feed 1000 people getting wasted.
The sight of so much food being thrown away gave him the idea of starting a service that would pick up leftover food from events and donate it to the needy.
“We sometimes give money to the homeless to buy food or even buy it ourselves for them. But the idea behind this service was not to buy food but use what is already available in abundance,” says Ankit.
The idea soon got converted into action and Ankit launched Feeding India in August 2014. The plan was simple — to collect excess food from parties, events and weddings and then distribute it in shelter homes.
He started by getting volunteers, or Hunger Heroes, as he named them. These heroes were selected from different locations in the city.
Ankit then launched a 24×7 helpline that people could call whenever they wanted to donate excess food.
“But this wasn’t enough. We needed a way to get a regular supply of food, which wasn’t possible with just launching a helpline,” recalls Srishti Jain, one of the core members of Feeding India.
Therefore, for a more systematic approach, Feeding India partnered with various catering companies that would inform Ankit and his team in advance about various events. And at the end of the event, they would give them a call informing them about the amount of excess food available.
The Hunger Heroes who lived near that particular location would collect the food and, if possible, distribute it the same night in shelter homes. In case the food cannot be distributed the same day or night, it was kept in cold storage and donated the next day.
“We mostly distribute it immediately after collecting it. There are various shelter homes open 24×7,” says Srishti. The Feeding India team also has a team of experts who test the food’s quality before it is donated.
“We have a very systematic approach which makes the entire process very simple and doable. People can call us anytime and we will be there to collect the food,” says Srishti.
Feeding India has now built a strong network of over 750 Hunger Heroes in 2o cities of India; they do not hesitate in performing their duties, even at odd hours.
“There was a time when we had to collect food for over 5,000 people in one night. We did not even have so many containers. We had to do two trips to get all the food and our Hunger Heroes got back home at 5 am. This is the kind of dedication everyone shows,” says Srishti.
Feeding India does not have any external financial support and currently runs on the personal money of the members. They do ask the caterers and event managers to pay for transport if possible.
“This has been a challenge. The caterers and managers say: ‘We are giving you food, why should we also pay for the transport?’ If they don’t agree to pay, we bear the cost,” says Srishti.
Thanks to the commitment of the team, Feeding India has donated over 2.5 lakh meals across India.
To get regular access to food, the organization now partners with different corporate houses (to pick up excess food from their canteens and office parties) and restaurants. Feeding India also organises events to spread more awareness about the cause and to help people understand the value of excess food.
Ankit and his team even got India’s star chefs on board for one of their campaigns, where they talked about their love for food and how it should be used for a good cause.
“We organize small events where we make people pledge that they will not waste food. Through these small interventions we are trying to change the mindset of the people,” says Srishti.
In the future, Feeding India wants to reach out to over 50 cities in India and get more corporate partnerships so that the hungry can get food.
“We make sure that the needy get proper meals; very often people give biscuit packets and bread and think that they have donated food. But this is not enough. We want to make sure every homeless person gets a proper meal,” concludes Srishti.
Call the helpline for Feeding India to donate any excess food that you may have – 098711 78810
The cities where Feeding India currently provides its services are –
Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai, Manipal city, Bhubaneshwar, Indore, Bhopal, Goa, Agra, Kanpur, Shiv Nadar University, SRM University, KIIT Bhubaneshwar