Many of us may not be aware of a silent movement, which is ensures the satisfaction of hunger for many through a collective effort and food management. There is no dearth of food but due to mishandling, negligence and improper storage facility we waste large amount of food, which would otherwise may feed those in need. The silent movement was started when the food man Chandra Sekhar Kundu plunged into action to ensure no one sleep without food.
It all started when Chandra Sekhar, a teacher associated with a private institution in Asansol, was returning home after disposing a huge amount of food wasted after his son’s eighth birthday party in 2015. On his way back home he came across two street kids searching through the dustbins looking for something to eat. Chandra Sekhar felt helpless. As he says while sharing the story with News Sense, “It was in the middle of the night and I could not arrange of food for them. Next day I decided to do something for it”.
The first thing he did with the objective to make a change in this direction is by bringing together a group of students at his college and creating a short film titled ‘Stop Food Wastage’. As the saying goes, charity begins in home, he started it with his home and his workplace, the college campus. His motive was to reduce food wastage on campus and bring about awareness on the issue. This tasted his first success as the film became very popular thereby decreasing food wastage at the institutions canteen.
Further understanding the seriousness of the situation, Chandra Sekhar came across a report by United Nations stating that over 19 million people in India suffer from malnutrition while food grains continue to decay at the Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns. Overwhelmed by the staggering number, in May 2016, he filed a Right to Information petition before the FCI. With their reply he learnt that around 22,000 crore metric tons of food grains had been wasted in the past two years. “This quantity of food grains was sufficient to fulfill the midday meals of one crore children for an entire month.”
He also wrote a letter to the then President of India mentioning two agendas. One to take steps against the wastage of food grains in FCI and another one was to start campaign to stop cooked food wastage. FCI replied specifying few steps that they would implement to stop food grains wastage. But the second agenda is yet to be addressed.
On the ground, Chandra Sekhar got together with two of his students were successful in convincing a hostel manager and began collecting the extra food and distributed it among the poor children. The initiative was first such hit in the public domain, as he says “I also posted few pictures of our work that went viral in a day and many came forward to lend their helping hands to us.”
He now gave shape to his initiatives in the form of an organisation named Food Education and Economic Development (FEED) in the same year with the aim of obtaining and providing excess food to the impoverished that often slept hungry.Now with a group of 135 students, teachers and social activists, he approaches different offices, canteens, hostels, and barracks of the police and CISF where good quality of excess food is available almost every day. “We convinced them and created a proper mechanism of checking, collection and distribution. We also contacted local canteen owners persuading them to cut back on wasting food in good condition or to donate the excess.”
In 2016, Chandra Sekhar wrote to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations on his work. In a positive reply, FEED was made a partner under the ‘Save Food’ initiative by the FAO. “We use this platform to gather ideas from other countries and put them into practice. We prefer students as volunteers and inspire them to help raise funds. We have also organised training programmes of food tasting for our volunteers, where chefs from different restaurants train them.”
Today, FEED has nearly 200 members, including 70 active volunteers providing for and feeding over 150 children in Asansol and Kolkata on a daily basis. Apart from sourcing excess food from barracks, office canteens and hostels, the organisation also saves food from different parties and distributes them among children and the elderly. In doing so, till date, FEED has saved one-lakh plates of food last year and plans on saving around 1.5 lakh this year.
To ensure on time delivery of food, FEED also has partnered with food delivery vans and Ola cabs. “Ola is our biggest partner. Through Ola or canteen operator vans, excess food reaches people in time, and all I have to do is coordinate with them over the phone or the Ola app.”
In April this year, FEED launched their second initiative ‘Food for God’ and installed a food rack in Gariahat, South Kolkata, offering people their excess unwanted but good quality food like packaged noodles, cakes, biscuits, jam and fruits. Chandra Sekhar plans on replicating the same model at 10 locations across West Bengal over the next six months.
Chandra Sekhar’s efforts are bringing hope and people together. Though he has not even received a word of appreciation or support from Government. But this will not stop this man with a vision to plan and manage food, that it won’t go waste rather it can feed a hungry child and bring smile to his or her face.