Wednesday March 27, 2019

“Roti Bank”- Mumbai Dabbawalla’s Initiative to Erase Hunger

Dabbawallas of Mumbai are also looking forward to sharing their thoughts in other Indian cities such as Lucknow, Noida, and Hubli.

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Dabbawallas in Mumbai. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

There’s an old saying “To survive on this planet you’ll need 3 things. Guess what? Well, folks!! Roti (bread), kapda (Clothes) and makaan (shelter) it is.

Here’s a strange fact. Although there is plenty of food produced by the farmers of India, but it is not evenly distributed among the people. India ranks 3rd in the world for obesity constituting 46 million obese citizens (according to the journal Lancet). At the same time, it also is the hungriest nation of the world. The Dabbawallas (meaning the one with boxes) of Mumbai have taken an initiative to help the underprivileged gain access to food. As a part of their accountability towards society, some initiatives have been taken by the Dabbawallas so that the nation doesn’t go hungry-

  • Maharastrain weddings are generally big fat weddings. There is so much of investment, showcase, latest trends are done there. It is indeed an expensive affair. With so much of pomp and grandeur, with it comes food wastage which is very common in these marriages.
  • The Dabbawallas of Mumbai have come up with an interesting project named ‘Roti bank’. Their aim is to distribute the leftovers evenly among the underprivileged class.
  • One of the co-founders of this initiative Dashrath Kedare (also the leader of dabbawalla union) even said: “We deal with food every day, so we’re ideally placed to fix this”.
  • They believe that In India there are schemes such as midday meals for poor children of our society and even religious charities such as Langars in Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) are organised. But no one is focusing towards the leftovers.
  • An average Indian marriage comprises of at least 100 people and at most 2500. A quarter of the food that’s prepared is always thrown away. Thousands of tons of food is trashed every day in a similar fashion. Union leaders add that it needs to be properly distributed within a limited span of time. Otherwise, the food will spoil.
  • These dabbawallas have formed an extensive network in the whole city. With more than 4000 members in their union, they are an integral part of Mumbai’s social life.Even Harvard Business school has done a case study on these efficient dabbawallas. They know exactly where those homeless lives live.
Leftover food materials, Wikimedia commons
Leftover food, Wikimedia commons
  • They have a unanimous support for this initiative. The first pickup was done in December, from an event organised by an airline. Their impact was so influential that more than 30 wedding planners have now partnered with them. They get 20-30 calls every day. Their response rate is way too high.

Related article:Improvement and malnutrition in India

  • Those dabbawallas earn about 180$ a month along with their monthly train passes and reimbursement for bicycle maintenance. They prefer to work in pairs. However, some work during their morning shifts while some do it during their afternoon shifts.

    A packed Dabba containig food, Wikimedia commons
    A packed Dabba containig food, Wikimedia commons
  • They are looking forward to taking it to a broader level by having a tie-up with NGOs across the country. Rotibankidia.com is a new website launched by Talekdar and Kedare (leaders of the Dabbawallas union). People can donate their leftover foodstuffs via this repository website.
  • Setting up collection points at various local railway stations, they are trying to convert smaller contributions to into a substantial amount. They are also looking forward to sharing their thoughts in other Indian cities (with similar scenarios) such as Lucknow, Noida, and Hubli.
  • Even though these dabbawallas play a small role in our society but with the amount of kindness and the large heart that they possess, these people have certainly impressed all with their collaborative efforts. They feel accountable towards the society and are comparitvely better than those upper class people who have plenty to do on their part but are unwilling to do so.

Prepared by Pritam

Pritam is a 3rd year engineering student in B.P. Poddar institute of management and technology, Kolkata. A simple person who tries to innovate and improvise himself.

Twitter handle @pritam_gogreen

 

  • Pragya Jha

    being a dabbahwala is not an easy task. Its a 9 hour job they perform.

Next Story

This Bengal Teacher Collects, Cooks Food to Feed The Poor Kids

We provide day meals to around 180 street children every day with this food," Kundu explained.

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In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a boy receives rice from a novice Buddhist monk near Mahar Aung Myae monastery in Hlaing Thaya, northwest of Yangon, Myanmar. Monks in the desperately poor neighborhood combine whatever food they received during morning alms into a giant pot and redistribute it to the less fortunate.
In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a boy receives rice from a novice Buddhist monk near Mahar Aung Myae monastery in Hlaing Thaya, northwest of Yangon, Myanmar. Monks in the desperately poor neighborhood combine whatever food they received during morning alms into a giant pot and redistribute it to the less fortunate. VOA

While the habit of wasting food at festivities, parties or even at household dinners has become an increasingly callous trend in urban living, a computer science teacher from West Bengal’s Asansol is working diligently to put a leash on food wastage and save hundreds from hunger.

Chandra Sekhar Kundu, the founder of Food, Education and Economic Development (FEED), collects excess untouched food from college and office canteens everyday and distributes it among nearly 200 poor children from Kolkata and Asansol.

Apart from supplying the daily meal to the underfed for the last four years, Kundu and his associates cook fresh food every night for street children in at least three places in Asansol and provides them necessary lessons on food education and nutrition.

Apart from supplying the daily meal to the underfed for the last four years, Kundu and his associates cook fresh food every night for street children in at least three places in Asansol and provides them necessary lessons on food education and nutrition.

“So many people in our nation stay hungry. It is not possible for us to feed them all but at least if we stop wasting food and give away the excess to those who need it, I feel we can prevent many from spending another night on an empty stomach,” said Kundu, also called the ‘food-man’ by many in his neighbourhood.

“I did an RTI on food wastage in 2016 and found out that around 22,000 crore tonnes of foodgrain is wasted in India every year. If we can save only 10 percent of that, it would be enough to match our government’s arrangements for mid-day meals each year,” he said.

Kundu’s life changed forever on the night of his son Srideep’s birthday party in 2015 when he went outside to dump some spare food and found two street children scavenging for pieces of chicken from a dustbin.

“Pained by the sight, I brought them to my home and provided them whatever we could arrange. I felt extremely guilty for throwing away the excess dishes minutes ago and wondered why I never gave it much of a thought before. I could not sleep that night,” he reminisced.

Within a few months of the incident, Kundu made a short film on food wastage to raise awareness on the issue. The effort was largely appreciated by his colleagues and students at the Asansol Engineering College.

Kick-starting his tirade against the food wasters, he set up an NGO named ‘Bengal Save Food and Save Life Brigade’ with his team of students and fellow teachers from the college, who initially collected the extra food from the college canteen and fed 15 to 20 poor children dwelling in Asansol station.

“We formed FEED in 2016 and approached the canteen owners of a number of educational institutions and offices in Asansol and Kolkata. Today we have tie-ups with the CISF barracks in Asansol, IIM Calcutta and a few other offices under a project called ‘Commitment 365 days’ where the canteens of the respective organisations provide us their excess food on a daily basis.

food to poor
Apart from supplying the daily meal to the underfed for the last four years, Kundu and his associates cook fresh food every night for street children in at least three places in Asansol and provides them necessary lessons on food education and nutrition.

 

“We provide day meals to around 180 street children every day with this food,” Kundu explained.

The street children living under the Gariahat flyover in south Kolkata and a slum in Joka, among other places, are the beneficiaries of the scheme.

While the day meals are collected and supplied, the volunteers of the organisation cook fresh food for the poverty stricken as they do not want to serve dishes stored for a long time

“It is difficult to collect food at night as it might be too late for the children. It would be unhygienic to serve them food from the afternoon. So our volunteers cook fresh food at two places of Asansol. Close to a hundred kids have dinner every night,” he said, adding that the initiative is partly funded by the Steel Authority of India (SAIL).

Buoyed by the success, Kundu has started another initiative called ‘Share your special day’ where people from all walks of life can make their birthdays, marriage or anniversaries memorable by filling the plates of under-fed kids with nutritious food.

Also Read: Sikhs In U.S. To Donate Funds, Food To Unpaid TSA Workers

“Several people have come forwared and contributed since we started it almost two years back. Many newly-weds join us to celebrate their anniversaries while some parents contribute on their kid’s birthday. It seems the bright smiles in the faces of those kids makes their special day a bit extra special,” said Kundu, who regularly posts pictures of those children and the contributors on his Facebook page.

“We have expansion plans. We are in talks with a number of organisations and eateries in Kolkata so that more such children can be helped. We also need a refrigerator to be able to store food for longer period and a vehicle for transporting it,” he added. (IANS)