Food ATMs to reduce food wastage, eliminate hunger in Kolkata

Food ATMs to reduce food wastage, eliminate hunger in Kolkata

Scene 1: You’re dining at a cozy eatery on Park Street, Kolkata. Through the window, you notice two street kids gazing in, their eyes silently yearning for food. Scene 2: Your stomach is full. You leave the restaurant unable to finish your complete meal. However, guilt gnaws at you for wasting food and not helping hungry children.

But now, a group of like-minded individuals in Kolkata, known as ‘Kolkata WeCare’, has come up with a solution to feed the hungry and end food insecurity in the city. They have united to provide meals to the poor and hungry, helping those who struggle to eat even once a day.

The group launched the ‘Food ATM’ concept on August 15, 2017, at CIT Road Sanjha Chulha. This initiative has proven to be a success, feeding approximately 50 people daily. Now, the group is all set to expand the programme across the city, with plans to install ‘Food ATMs’ in five different zones. Each zone will have two ‘Food ATMs’ strategically placed outside local police stations to ensure safety and security. Also, each ‘Food ATM’ will include a helpline number and a designated person. Kolkata ‘WeCare’ will also install a ‘Food ATM’ outside Oasis restaurant on Park Street. The programme aims to always provide food to the needy by redistributing surplus food from various sources, including restaurants, hotels and others.

Talking about food wastage, social entrepreneur Imran Zaki, one of the minds behind the initiative, recalls a story about Ratan Tata during a visit to Germany. While dining with colleagues, Tata noticed some old ladies at another table. As they were leaving the restaurant, the elderly ladies spoke to them in English, expressing their displeasure about the amount of food left uneaten. One of Tata’s colleagues retorted that they had paid for the food, so it was no one else’s business how much they left behind. However, the elderly ladies called the manager, who later fined them. The manager explained that while the money might be theirs, the resources belong to the country and wasting food is a form of social injustice.

“At times, when you’re out with friends or family, enjoying a meal at a restaurant, there are moments when excess food is left on the table. I’ve often seen my friends take care of that excess food. They don’t want to leave it behind. Instead, they pack it up to give to someone in need. If all of us can take on this kind of responsibility, then the problem of food insecurity could be alleviated,” said Zaki.

What makes the ‘Food ATM’ initiative even more impactful is the involvement of local students. Zaki informed that young volunteers will manage the ‘Food ATMs’ and create awareness about food wastage through placards displayed at various traffic signals. “This not only educates the public but also instills a sense of responsibility and community service in the younger generation,” he said.

Zaki also mentioned that the initiative has found support from corporations, five-star hotels and restaurants. In the next three months, the group plans to install 10 ‘Food ATMs’ across five zones in Kolkata. “We already have tie-ups with five-star hotels and restaurant owners. We have roped in NGOs like the Rotary Club and Lions Club. We are also in regular touch with the Kolkata Police and Kolkata Municipal Corporation,” said the passionate social worker. In fact, the collaboration with the Kolkata Police has further strengthened the initiative, ensuring credibility and encouraging broader community participation.

India, with a population of 1.4 billion, accounts for one-quarter of the world’s undernourished and is home to over 190 million hungry people. Zaki believes it’s the responsibility of everyone to step forward in this initiative and feed the hungry. He calls upon all residents of Kolkata to step up and join efforts to minimize food waste and ensure those in need are fed. “It’s a noble but humongous task but there will come a time when we can reduce food wastage, eliminate hunger and make Kolkata a hunger-free zone,” he said.

For those eager to support this noble cause of ‘Food ATMs’, contact 9830878727

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