India is a land where you see a multitude of poor and hungry on the streets; in an attempt to feed these and avoid the wastage of food, a few people in the state have got together to create food banks. NT BUZZ talks to a few such people
Janice Rodrigues | NT Buzz
Run a search on the internet about food wastage and you will be appalled at the amounts that end up in garbage dumps. A couple of stats that pop up throw you off-balance: in India alone, with one of the largest undernourished population in the world, 194.6 million people are said to go hungry every day, while 3,000 children in India die every day from poor diet related illness. These are staggering facts and this doesn’t paint a good picture in our minds.
Cut to our homes, we have a party to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or whatever reason calls for a few friends and family getting together. And no party is complete without a great meal and to be on a ‘safer side’, we as humans have the tendency of overdoing things and thus will cook a meal for 10 even if there are just 5 people in the gathering. Hence, after every party we are left with food for another set of people and don’t know what to do with it. This either ends up being refrigerated and consumed over the next few days or ends up in the dustbin.
This is the dilemma that many people have been faced with and thankfully a few have decided to devise a solution to this rather mundane problem. Donald Fernandes, from Sangolda, is one such concerned citizen who decided to step in and make sure that this basic necessity reaches the ones in need of it, “My wife and I’ve been doing this for the last three years. We used to provide food from our own home to around 50 poor people in the neighbourhood,” he says. But over time Donald realised there were more people to be fed and well as those willing to feed. And thus brainstorming sessions and months later, a few like-minded people got together to establish a rather systematic approach to the problem.
“We formed a society as part of the St Vincent de Paul Society (SSVP) at St Diogo Church, where we began giving a few poor families ration and other things as a church group. We pooled in more people who shared the same idea and thus we started a bank so we can save more and distribute more food,” says Donald.
The idea was to find outlets to curb the wastage of food, says Donald: “A lot of food gets wasted in homes, at parties and all. So we want to spread the word to start saving food, so that a few others can eat.” With volunteers stationed in six places across the Bardez taluka, the group has now grown in a form of a network. “Whoever calls me, I then tell that particular volunteer to pick up the food. I have volunteers based in Mapusa, Calangute and Porvorim. We also have one in Panaji,” he adds.
If you feel disheartened that this activity is centred solely in the North Goa district, you can call another concerned young citizen who has taken up the similar work. Crishnaa Verencar from Margao along with her band of youth, who call themselves The Healers, also works on the similar principals. “We have several programmes under our banner; one of it is called ‘Happy Bellies’, where we feed at least five homeless on a daily basis,” says Crishnaa.
The Healers are based in Margao and have volunteers in Vasco as well. “In the last two years we have done 10 such rounds where we have got calls from people who have extra food and would have otherwise just thrown it out,” she says. The group distributed the food among the homeless, visiting the railway stations and markets. Donald and his group feed people in the stretch from the Sangolda, Guirim to Saligao, providing food for 50 regularly. “Whatever is extra goes to orphanages and other homes,” says Donald.
Until recently, these individuals have been working on the personal basis and word of mouth. Donald used to get calls from acquaintances, while Crishnaa had popularised the work on a social networking site. “I initially had set up a filtered water tank in my property, which stores 1000 litres of filtered water every day that people can avail of for the dearth of free drinking water. To further it I then installed a fridge close to the tap, the moment people saw that we have a fully equipped fridge they realised I was serious,” says Donald.
Having set up a refrigerator, Donald then opened up a part of his property to host a kitchen, “so people come to keep the food in the fridge from there it comes to the kitchen and then it goes out to the people,” adds Donald.
The work of these two groups has found favour in many people and they now get volunteer requests from a lot of people around. While Donald has got a request from a couple of foreign exchange students who are to join him soon, there are students from Chowgule College interning with Crishnaa.
Ask them if they have any hardships in the work, they respond with smiles. “Not really, when we get calls from people we do check the food, and accept fresh food,” says Donald. Crishnaa however has hit a roadblock when it comes to small commercial enterprises. “We did try asking some small hotels to let us know if they have excess food, but they don’t seem to do that,” she says.
These groups also accept offers like toys, books and medical supplies, even clothes, but all in wearable or usable conditions. “The problems are so many, but we have to find time to segregate them and find a solution, each,” says Donald.