In late September, a young woman from Bengaluru woke up in the wee hours of the night with a rumbling stomach. As she munched away to fill her stomach, she thought of the many people in the city who probably went to sleep on an empty stomach. Thus began Feed Your Neighbour (FYN), a campaign started by Mahita Fernandez, a young entrepreneur, to eradicate Bengaluru’s hunger.
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For those who are still in the dark about the initiative, here’s a quick introduction. FYN calls for Bengalureans to cook five additional meals at their home between October 12th and 22nd, and drop them off at specific points in a particular neighbourhood. From here, volunteers pick the food and deliver it to the hungry and homeless in the city.
For more about the FYN initiative, read our earlier article: Feeding Bengaluru’s less fortunate, five meals at a time.
Growing enthusiasm equals happy bellies
Since the start of the initiative, the numbers have been going up, both in terms of volunteers, as well as the folks who have benefitted from it. On the very first day, October 12th, 4,454 packets of food were distributed. Day two to five saw an increase of 600 to 700 packs daily. From day six onwards, the numbers saw a spike, with an increase of more than 1,000 packs a day. On day nine, October 20th, a whopping 15,789 packs were distributed, bringing the total to 84,646.
Mahita says, “It’s amazing to see this. Every day, we seem to be surpassing the previous day’s numbers. I’m sure we will cross the one lakh mark at the end of today’s distribution.” She had initially set a target of one lakh meals to be delivered through the course of FYN. Considering that the initiative is on till October 22nd, it will come as no surprise if the team manages to distribute over 20 per cent of their target by the end of the campaign.
In addition to delivering food to people on the streets and slums, as the campaign progressed, the scope extended to include outfits that looked after the needy, like orphanages and old-age homes. Mahita says, “We began receiving calls from orphanages and others places requesting that food be delivered to them. And we did not have the heart to refuse them.”
Help from all quarters
Mahita calls out some of the volunteers who gone above the call of duty. Manorama Rai, a volunteer in the Whitefield area has been identifying different groups of people who could be given a hot meal. Paluk Khanna, another volunteer and a mother of young children, has been taking her children along when she visits the slums around Bannerghatta to deliver food.
Help has also been coming in from other unexpected sources too. One of the volunteers reached out to KS Prasad, a wholesaler to check if he could supply raw materials at a subsidised cost. In the last two days, he has supplied 56 bags of sona masuri rice at a cost of Rs 40 per kilogram. The cost for the same at a grocery store is typically pegged between Rs 50 to 70.
Many folks have also ordered raw materials like rice, dal and vegetables from online stores like bigbasket.com, and have had it delivered directly to Mahita’s house.
Several others have made their way to Mahita’s house, which functions as the central kitchen/storage area/packing area. They help in peeling and cutting vegetables, and in packing the food into packets.
Prasad says, “The boys who had gone to deliver the rice to Mahita’s house told me that her entire family had moved into two rooms of their house. The rest of the place was used as storage for raw materials, or for packing and cooking. Inspired by the effort that was being put in by them, the boys refused to take their delivery charge which they otherwise would have.”
“It’s lovely to see the happiness on childrens’ faces”
Divya Paduval is a volunteer who pitched in by cooking additional meals, as well as helping with the distribution of food packets. She says, “I was initially part of the team that was delivering food to Whitefield. We were picking up food from Marathahalli and then travelling to Whitefield. But we were spending a lot of time in traffic and the food was getting cold. So another volunteer identified an orphanage in Marathahalli, where we then started delivering food.”
Ask Divya what her experience has been on the ground, and she has this to say, “At the orphanage there were really small children, some as young as one or two years even. I am the mother to a two-year old child myself. I was really touched when we handed over the food to the children there; they said that the food was tasty. There are really no words to describe the happiness on their faces.”
She also shares some food for thought, “When we were distributing food on the day at the orphanage, I heard one of the caretakers address a group of young children, ‘You don’t have to cook tomorrow’. It seems as if the work that is supposed to be done by the caretakers, is passed on to the children.”
Participate to make a difference
Tomorrow, October 22nd is the last day of the campaign. Here’s how you can pitch in to make a difference in someone’s life.
Mahita says that the final day is open to all. Apart from the folks who have been cooking so far, the FYN team is accepting additional meals from anyone who is willing to cook and drop off the food packets. To pitch in, please convey your interest on the Facebook group, and one of the group admins will guide you on what you need to do next. Mahita adds that drop off points for tomorrow’s distribution will be announced on the group as well.
Those who cannot cook, can do their bit by contributing money. The money raised will go towards paying off the expenses that have been incurred so far. Mahita says that while people have so far donated a whopping 4.5 lakhs, there is still a deficit of 3 lakhs that is needed to pay of caterers and other vendors. For details on how you can donate, click here.
The staggering response from the community and the number of people whose lives it has made a difference to, is a testimony that namma Bengalureans have a very large heart.
Divya adds, “My husband and I were discussing about how we could sustain a similar initiative in the long run. Though it may not materialise immediately, we are sure that we want to do something some day.”
Here’s hoping that every reader has been inspired too. Whoever thought that cooking five meals a day could make such a difference? FYN is indeed proof that a small change in our lives, can go a long way in helping someone in need.
Addendum (as on October 23rd 2015)
Across the 11-day period that the Feed Your Neighbour initiative ran for, a total of 1,22,937 meals have been distributed to the homeless and hungry in Bengaluru.