We have always been a nation that believes in the mantra of sharing and caring. But somehow, over the last few decades the gap between the haves and the have-nots has widened. Right after I hung up my boots as a policeman in 2011, I was keen to do something for those fellow citizens who need a hand of compassion, love and care. I was always disturbed by the hunger I saw on the streets, particularly the plight of street children. In India about 200 million people go hungry every day and thousands of children die of malnutrition and hunger and yet, we waste tonnes of food. I think we can always channelize edible food which is wasted towards those who would otherwise sleep hungry.
One day I read about the ‘No Food Waste’ mission of Chennai that is committed to ending food wastage and hunger. That inspired me. I thought of launching a roti bank in Mumbai.
On the 23rd of December 2017, we launched Mumbai RotiBank with one van donated by a friend. The initiative is to collect leftover food from restaurants, hotels, party venues, clubs and big events in our GPRS-equipped vans and distribute it among the hungry before it gets stale. So, the entire exercise must take place within 60 to 90 minutes.
Since hotels, restaurants are wary of donating leftover food use, we launched our NGO as a ‘food rescue’ organisation. Covering functions, marriages and other gatherings. On a weekday, we are able to feed about 3000 people a day while on the weekends we exceed 4000 meals. It is such a heart-warming feeling to see the happiness and compassion on the faces of people on getting food. It is a pleasure to see that many NGOs are working towards the ‘No hunger’ mission today.
Mumbai RotiBank also conducts comprehensive Joy of Sharing sessions in the city’s schools like Canoosa High School, Hill Spring International School, The Cathedral & John Connon School and Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School. The children donate two rotis voluntarily and we add the other food items. We try and encourage children from well-to-do families to accompany us and see for themselves the happiness on the faces of the recipients. If right from the beginning these children learn to extend help in eradicating hunger from the streets, they will grow up to be conscientious citizens.
We, at Roti Bank, have begun organizing many celebrations and drives like Dan Utsav at colleges. On Independence Day this year, our volunteers helped the pupils of Fazlani School to connect with destitute children at various places. The pupils collected Rs 12,000, divided themselves in six groups and along with the volunteers of Mumbai RotiBank, served 5,000 meals to the poor. Words fall short of explaining the joy on the faces of the pupils.
On World Food Day this week, we are aiming to distribute 50,000 meals across the length and breadth of Mumbai with a focus to feed young children in various schools. Many educational institutions have joined hands with us. We also wish to spread awareness about food wastage and the importance of proper nutrition through this drive.
Please do not think that this is beyond you. Everyone can help. Corporates, canteens, wedding or party organisers or eateries can either call RotiBank on its number (8655580001) or mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org to donate food. Organisations, schools, canteens, hospitals, temples or caterers wanting to donate regularly can have an alliance with us. Young pupils/ students can set up chapters in their institutes and also join our volunteers. I have a vision to serve one million meals this year and our next year’s target is 2 million meals. I will be happy if you can donate for the cause as we need a bigger fleet of vehicles, a kitchen, and more personnel to join us.
Please remember what Barbara De Angelis had said: ‘Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver’.
So, are you willing to express love and kindness?