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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.

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“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)

Next Story

Children Paying the Price in Yemen’s War

Violence is just one of the many reasons the war in Yemen has crippled the country's ability to educate children

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Children, Yemen's War
Aid organizations have called the humanitarian crisis in Yemen the worst in the world, and a "war on children." Pictured in Sanaa, Yemen, April 20, 2019. VOA

When the blast went off in early April, shrapnel hit homes and schools all over the quiet residential neighborhood of the Yemeni capital.

Windows shattered and the 2,000 girls in a nearby school tried to evacuate at once, many racing down the stairs and some dying in the stampede.

Safia Al-Wesabi, a 10-year-old student of the Al-Ra’ai School, made it out safely, but she couldn’t find her older, teen-aged sister outside. “I was sobbing,” she said. “I thought she was trampled to death.”

​More than 15 children were killed and 100 other people injured that day, but violence is just one of the many reasons the war in Yemen has crippled the country’s ability to educate children, and often even keep them alive. As Yemen’s conflict goes into a fifth year, aid organizations are calling it a “war on children.”

Children, Yemen's War
Safia Al-Wesabi, a 10-year-old student of the Al Ra’ai School, survived a blast that killed 15 children and injured 100 children and adults in Sanaa, Yemen in early April, pictured on April 20, 2019. VOA

“We are at a tipping point,” said Henrietta Fore, the executive director of UNICEF in a recent speech. “If the war continues any longer, the country may move past the point of no return. … How long will we continue allowing Yemen to slide into oblivion?”

Missing school and health care

As the children fled flying glass and shrapnel at their school last month, Hamid Al Wesabi, Safia’s father, was in his home located on a hill nearby. His house shook and the windows broke. He ran to the school to find his daughters. “We didn’t know what was happening,” he said.

Later that day, both the girls and their father escaped the chaos and reunited at home.

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A few weeks later, the school was open again for final exams and Wesabi’s daughters went back. Many others chose not to return.

At least one in five schools is no longer in use in Yemen, mostly because they were destroyed by violence or are now being used as emergency shelters or military bases.

​Hospitals also have shut down at alarming rates and roughly half of Yemeni children under age 5 have been permanently injured by malnutrition. Every 10 minutes a child in Yemen dies from a preventable cause, according to a recent UNICEF report.

Teachers’ salaries are often not being paid, forcing many to look for other jobs. Sometimes children are simply too afraid to go to school, the report says.

Children, Yemen's War
Hamid Al Wesabi and Safia are pictured by their home after a blast nearby shook the house and broke the windows in Sanaa, Yemen, April 20, 2019. VOA

​As a result, Yemeni children are increasingly recruited to fight in militias, work at other adult jobs or married off at young ages. “If not in school, children would become an illiterate and unskilled parent and increasing the likelihood of passing on poverty to the next generation,” it reads.

Safia took her exams but her text books were lost in the blast, so she could not prepare.

Other children were not so lucky. Sitting next to Safia at a wooden desk, 8-year-old Bayan appeared absent-minded when asked about her older sister, who was killed in the crush of girls trying to escape. An adult asked if she missed her sister.

“Yes,” she managed to say quietly.

Humanitarian crisis deepens

The war in Yemen is between the Houthis, who currently hold the north, including the capital Sanaa, and forces loyal to the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was forced from the capital in 2015 and is recognized as the Yemeni president by the United Nations.

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These are hardly the only players in this war, which has left many world powers mired in proxy battles. Iran is known to support the Houthis, whose longest-held territories are near the border with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s archenemy.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have been launching airstrikes targeting the Houthis — often in locations populated by civilians — for four years now with support from Western powers like the United States and Britain. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, many of them civilians, including children.

Children, Yemen's War
Eight-year-old Bayan, right, lost her older sister when 2,000 girls tried to evacuate their school at the same time, in Sanaa, Yemen, pictured April 20, 2019. VOA

Already the Arab world’s poorest country, this battle has turned Yemen into what many call the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with the threat of widespread famine now looming as peace talks continue to be derailed. Last week, a cease-fire in a key port city broke down, exacerbating the threat as food and aid remained stalled outside the country by the war.

It is not clear as to who or what caused the blast that hit the school last month, with pro-Saudi news reporting an airstrike, and later deleting the report, according to Human Rights Watch.The organization says Houthi authorities were storing dangerous material in a civilian neighborhood.

Children, Yemen's War
After the blast, teachers said they felt obligated to return to school despite their fears, to encourage children to do the same, in Sanaa, Yemen, April 20, 2019. VOA

Besides violence, hunger, and disease, children in Yemen are also deeply threatened by the psychological trauma they are experiencing, according to Fathia al-Kuhlani, the principal of the Al Ra’ai School in Sanaa.

“After trauma, if students don’t go back to school, anxiety can lead to depression,” she said. “It was hard even for us to enter the school the day after the strike, but we needed to come to encourage the students to come back.” (VOA)