- Zomato India has distributed 7.8 crore meals across 181 cities in India
- Over 6 lakh meals have been served through Roti Ghar initiative in Mumbai
- Robin Hood Army has been serving over 2 million meals/month across India
New Delhi: “We are hardly earning any money in the pandemic that can help my family of four to eat even one meal nicely,” said 27-year-old Bunty, a rickshaw puller in Delhi-NCR. 32-year-old Joshna, a house-helper in Noida adds, “Earlier when the lockdown was in place, we were not allowed to visit householdS for any work. I had to sit at home for 4 months straight, some people were nice, they didn’t cut my pay, but I did lose pay from some other houses. Now I am back at work, but it is not the same. Before the pandemic, I had 10 houses where I used to work, now, I am only left with only 4. We are not preparing any meals at homeS now, everyday as we need to save money for our future and are relying on free meals, which we get every now and then from NGOs and people of the nearby societies.”
This is not the story of Joshna and Bunty alone, there are thousands of poor people who are struggling to eat their basic square meals a day in this pandemic. To help the most needy people, some warriors and organisations have taken on the task of providing nutritious meals to as many people as they can during the coronavirus crisis. As India marks National Nutrition Week 2020 from September 1 to 7, we speak to the warriors who are leading the movement in the country by making sure that no one goes to sleep on a hungry stomach and has a nutritious meal.
Zomato’s Feeding India Initiative
With most urban areas still under some form of lockdown and businesses resume operations slowly, many are yet to find a stable means to provide for their families. Many migrant labourers have been forced to move back to their hometown while a large number of daily wage earners continue to live in the city with no job in hand. Even with many government schemes, large number of these families are still facing a daily challenge of putting food on the plate for their family. Keeping these issues in mind, India’s foodtech giant – Zomato came up with ‘Feeding India’ campaign, wherein free ration kits are distributed to the most needy families.
The non-profit initiative works on user base funding basis, wherein users can come and donate money – Rs 500 (for one family), Rs. 1500 (for 3 families) and Rs.2500 (for 5 families). Explaining about the initiative, Chandan Mendiratta, Head of Zomato Feeding India campaign says,
In India, there are many people who are in dire need of food and the lockdown crisis due to coronavirus outbreak in the country has made the situation even more worse. Zomato India decided to help the most vulnerable community and that’s when ‘Feed The Daily Wagers’ initiative was born. On March 24, we told the world about this initiative and opened the user base funding for the project, wherein users can come and donate money. With the help of money raised, Zomato distributes ration kits and helpS the community from hunger.
The ration kits distributed by Zomato consists of daily essentials like wheat flour, rice and two types of pulses that can be used to cook meals for the family for a week. Till now, the initiative has been able to raise over Rs 32.5 crore (Rs 32,57,48,829), which has been used to distribute 7.8 crore meals across 181 cities in India.
Talking about the distribution process, Chandan Mendiratta added,
This initiative is being done with utmost precautions, we are providing these kits at the individual households or their nearby areas. If the queuing is done, it is done with all the necessary precautions which need to be taken at this time of coronavirus crisis. We have given about 6,56,858 kits till now and have partnered with multiple NGOs on the ground to help ensure responsible distribution of these kits while adhering to proper guidelines.
Roti Ghar India Initiative From Mumbai
Back in 2017, a social activist from Mumbai, Chinu Kwatra along with his few friends kick-started an initiative of Roti Ghar with a motto of nurturing, pampering and providing good nutritious one-time meal to more than 100 women and underprivileged children every day. He says,
Just like we have the benefits and luxury of having good and healthy meals every day, many people out there in our country don’t have that. To bridge the gap between these two things, I decided to start Roti Ghar and started to provide meals to the most vulnerable people in the community.
Chinu Kwatra took help of dieticians and nutritionists and made a meal plan for Roti Ghar and decided to distribute dal and rice to the people as that is high in protein and later initiated a change in the meal plan and decided to serve dal, rice for all six days and once a week for a change, give eggs and misal pav to the people. Today, operating out of a centralised kitchen in Thane, Chinu Kwatra along with his team is feeding over 10,000 people daily with meals that include dal, rice, vegetable and is providing freshly-cooked meals IN to four cities – Mumbai, Thane, Airoli, Bhiwandi. He adds,
As a motto of Roti Ghar we decided that we will not give waste or surplus food from restaurants or events to the underprivileged as most of the times they are high in fat and have lots of preservatives added, which in turn can harm the health of these people and so we provide them only and only with home cooked fresh meals.
Even in the pandemic, Chinu’s initiative is going strong and more and more people are being covered with every passing day so that they can get a nutritious meal without any worries. He says,
In coronavirus pandemic, we have seen security guards, labourers, and rag pickers and other daily wagers suffer to meet their basic needs. They are on duty 24×7 so that they are not deprived of their work and money. So, Roti Ghar in coronavirus times decided to extend the meal programme and started serving these people as well because if they are fed good and healthy meals they will have the power to work more productively. Moreover, to ensure the safety of the volunteers, there are no mass gatherings. The food is distributed in packets using vans. Also, the volunteers wear protective equipment such as masks, goggles, gloves, caps and use sanitisers at all the times.
One Roti Ghar meal costs Rs 25 and the initiative works on donations. Explaining the funding process, Chinu adds,
I run various campaigns on social media, on the basis of donations, I have been running the initiative. Moreover, I ask sponsors to come and serve these people meals because then they can actually see what it feels like to serve food to people who are hungry.
Till today, in the coronavirus crisis, over 6 lakhs (6,30,880) meals have been freshly cooked and distributed and nearly 3 lakh (2,89,590) people have benefitted with dry ration kits with the help of Roti Ghar initiative.
Chennai Brothers Who Turned Into Corona Warriors
Meet 21-year-old Abdul Salam and 19-year-old Sultan Abbas, the brother duo from Chennai who started to serve food and ration kits to people in need, during the Coronavirus lockdown. Sultan along with his older brother Mohammed Abdul Salam returned from Northern Ireland’s Belfast to Chennai right before the lockdown was imposed in India. After completing the mandatory quarantine, the duo started helping the people in need by providing food and dry ration. The duo says they kick-started the social initiative with the support of friends and family initially and served more than 1,000 people. However, the small initiative took a big leap when they initiated a page GoFundMe, a crowdfunding platform and started asking donations online for their initiative. Talking about funding and how the things fell in place, Abdul Salam said,
We got donations mainly from our friends, family, and social circle who shared it. We didn’t expect such a response initially but then we started a page on GoFundMe, a crowdfunding platform and received donations from all across the world. Our university and a lot of organisations shared the initiative which gave it a big boost and helped us raise funds.
The brothers managed to raise more than Rs. 6 lakh for the initiative and have reached out to more than 13,000 people in Chennai till date. Talking about the ration kits, the duo added,
We provide kits consisting of essential items like rice, pulses, and others. One kit helps a family sustain for a week. These kits are distributed among sanitation workers, auto drivers and people who had lost their livelihood. This is just our way to help them out in the testing times. We think more and more people should come out and give back to society because only that would lead to a better society.
Robin Hood Army Serving Happiness Via Food Since 2014
The Robin Hood Army is a zero-funds volunteer organization that works to get surplus food from restaurants and communities to serve the less fortunate. The volunteers who are fondly called India’s “Robins”, are largely students and young working professionals who are interested to do social work in their free time and distribute food to the lesser fortunate sections of the society which include homeless families, orphanages, patients from public hospitals and old age homes.
Before coronavirus, every Sunday, Robin Hood Army in dressed in green T-shirts used to head out in different directions with packed food like vada pav, khichdi and parathas to serve homeless people. The initiative that began in 2014 as a two-person organisation being supported by a few restaurants in Delhi’s Hauz Khas is now spread across 182 areas across 13 countries. But, the volunteer-driven organisation that always used to provide hot, fresh-cooked meals to those who would otherwise not have access to it, went through a change of plans when coronavirus outbreak took place.
Explaining about the organisation and its initiative, Anand Sinha, co-founder of Robin Hood Army says,
From the very beginning we were clear that we won’t be serving these people waste food. We requested the eateries to give us leftovers, which are fresh. But when coronavirus hit the country and restaurants business went down and with most of them getting temporarily closed, we had to rethink on how to continue the initiative of brinGing smile to people’s face by providing them with food. Secondly, once the pandemic hit, our Robins were at risk too. So we pivoted: we started a senior patrol, where anybody could log a request on our website for their aged relatives and parents and our Robins – who are spread across every neighbourhood in India — would go and help them, taking them to hospitals and buying medicine. Then, once things got a little clearer and all the guidelines came to place, we resumed our operation with a few new rules in place.
Now Robin Hood army is serving dry ration kits in two groups – 20-kilogram happiness pack that contains 12 kilos of rice, five kilos of dal, two kilos of sugar, one kilo of salt and two litres of oil and a 10-kilogram package containing half the rations.
Anand Sinha adds,
People need food to live a healthy life, with this motto, we had started Robin Hood Army and continuing with the same motto, even in the pandemic, we are serving people with dry ration kits that can sustain them for few days. The need of giving food is even more now, these are the testing times, before the lockdown, we had been serving about 800,000 meals a month, on an average. For the last two or three months, it has been around two million meals a month. I think that there is a lot more civic consciousness: everyone wants to know how to help in their own capacity, whether as a company or as an individual.
How Hunger Can Harm India’s Nutritional Status?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), India is one of the world’s largest food producer, be it of milk, pulses, and ranks as the second largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnut, vegetables, fruit and cotton. Ironically, the country is also home to the largest population of hungry people. According to FAO estimates in ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2020 report, 189.2 million people are undernourished in India, which means 14 per cent of the population is undernourished in the country. The report also highlights that 34.7 per cent of the children aged under five in India are stunted (too short for their age), while 20 per cent suffer from wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height. And the crisis of coronavirus has further worsened these conditions and India’s poor and hungry are being affected the most.
So in these unprecedented times, these warriors who are braving the pandemic to feed people are not just saviours of lives but also torchbearers of humanity.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.