- 'Don’t Waste Food' group doesn’t let extra food at hotels, parties go waste
- The group has branches in New Delhi, Rohtak and Dehradun
- Malleshwar’s another initiative aims to provide the poor with essentials
New Delhi: At the age of five, because of the financial difficulties his family was facing, Malleshwar Rao was forced to work as a child labourer at roadside stalls and constructions sites in and around Hyderabad city. At work, he used to suffer because of the abusive nature of employees and everyday he felt sad about dropping out of school. It was on one fateful day that a passer-by saw him and offered to help him get enrolled in a charitable school that provides education for free of cost. This act of kindness helped Malleshwar immensely and it turned around not just his life but also the lives of many others. Now, a 27-year-old Malleshwar through his initiative ‘Don’t Waste Food’ has been collecting extra food from restaurants and houses arounds the city to feed the poor. Currently, he along with several volunteers is feeding around 2,000 people on a daily basis.
While talking about his journey, Malleshwar said to NDTV,
My father, a farmer in Nagpur lost all of his freshly cut harvest when I was little as it got drenched in the rain. With no crop insurance and no savings, the loss could not be recovered and we came under a lot debt. We had to sell everything and move to a friend’s place in Nizamabad, Telangana. Only if my father got work during the day would we get food at night. And during festivals, he would have no work at all. So while the whole world would be feasting, we would be fasting. As the situation worsened, I opted for manual labour when I was 5-years-old. My younger brother was too little to work and father developed drinking habit after which our lives plunged further into darkness.
After completing schooling from the charitable school, Malleshwar went on to pursue higher education while working at multiple part-time jobs on the side. In 2012, during the first year of college, Malleshwar, a student of Bachelor of Technology in Electric and Communication, got a chance to work as a waiter at an event.
There was a lot of leftover food at the end of the event which the organisers gave us for free. Recalling my hunger-filled days, I proposed to my fellow waiters that we pack it all up and distribute it to the homeless people in the city. That is when it struck to me that maybe I should try and get the leftover food from events happening around the city daily and give it those who need it. Eventually, the initiative started gaining trust of organisers and restaurant owners and started receiving calls from them. This is how the ‘Don’t Waste Food’ initiative was started, he said.
Malleshwar gathered support from a number of volunteers across Hyderabad and soon in other cities like New Delhi, Rohtak and Dehradun.
Nanda Marri, a Software Engineer from Hyderabad who is a volunteer at ‘Don’t Waste Food’ said to NDTV,
My journey with Malleshwar Rao started in an unexpected manner for a cause. Then I got to know that he did an impossible thing during lockdown which was feeding more than 20,000 people per day, and also helped the needy in many ways during the lockdown period. I was truly inspired by him and decide to become a volunteer and assist him. He has motivated many of us to work more for people who are starving from days. I am proud to be a part of this journey.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country and a nationwide lockdown was implemented, Malleshwar continued feeding the poor. Apart from the leftover food from hotels and restaurants, the ‘Don’t Waste Food’ initiative receives support in the form of food donations and transportation assistance from households and corporates. Social media network has also helped Malleshwar to a large extent. It not only helps him to find more volunteers and gather support but also to identify those in need.
Owner of the restaurant Srinivasa Meals in Kondapur, Telangana who regularly donates food to the ‘Don’t Waste Food’ campaign said,
When we donate food for the needy, it makes us happy just like it makes happy when we serve our customers. We are proud of donating all the leftover food to the campaign. Even though we are not physically present when the food is being distributed to the needy, we get updates of the distributions from the group daily along with pictures. Feeding the hungry is the noblest cause. We will continue donating the food to the group for distribution.
As the COVID-19 situation worsened in the state of Telangana, Malleshwar started another initiative called ‘Connect Hope’ which aims to provide items of essential needs like masks, ration, soaps to the needy.
Malleshwar been recognised widely because of his initiatives and has won various awards like Indian Youth Icon 2018, Rashtriya Gaurav Award 2019, and Son of the Soil award 2019. His work was also acknowledged by Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra Group who took to Twitter and wrote in appreciation,
I will not complain about 2020 being a difficult year after having seen this. Malleshwar Rao, I salute you & will support you. Life isn’t difficult when you remove the difficulties of others.
I will not complain about 2020 being a difficult year after having seen this. Malleshwar Rao, I salute you & will support you. Life isn’t difficult when you remove the difficulties of others… pic.twitter.com/9YmsYhlo87
— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) December 29, 2020
When asked about what keeps him motivated to continue the philanthropic work and feed thousands of people everyday, Malleshwar said,
Feeding the hungry is not just an act of charity, it is the supreme duty of each one of us. There was someone who once helped me and saved my life. It is my turn now.
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.