The Anti-hunger Army: Changemakers who are fighting to eradicate hunger from India
By: Malini Bhattacharya
Published On: April 23, 2018
Sociologist Robert Park is remembered, over 70 years after his death, for encouraging the young social worker or journalist or activist to get the “seat of your pants dirty in real research.”
What Park was trying to say is that a person working to change the lives of others needs a certain degree of familiarity, even intimacy with one’s subject, or they cannot do justice to the representation of that group, much less take active measures to lift them out of the cesspools of difficulty and ethical injustice they live in.
To feed the hungry, then, you will need to have seen how the hungry suffer and understood the battles they fight on a day to day to ensure that some morsels of food travel to their mouths and to the waiting mouths of their children.
In our country, the 200 million hungry are everywhere you look, and hunger a hardship impossible to not look in the eye. Zero hunger, anti-hunger workers agree, is what they dream of, in alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which prioritize eradication of hunger and poverty alleviation as the top two items on its agenda.
Changemakers are venturing into this space of grave need, and launching a powerful foray against hunger as social evil.
What does this skirmish against hunger look like? Who are the faces connected to this essential, belated movement that promises national uplift of the destitute into havens where food security is real and tangible? These are the people leading the fight against hunger in India.
Md. Sujath Ullah
The 24-year-old from Hyderabad went to Secunderabad Railway Station at the end of an important exam to buy food for a few of the homeless people who live on the premises in makeshift shanties.
This celebratory gesture showed Sujath Ullah that there were many more who needed to be fed, and on a daily basis.
The pharmacy graduate has built a team of volunteers in the last couple of years and serves well-cooked, hot breakfast to about 1000 people near two Hyderabad government hospitals every morning.
Sujathullah has founded and runs the Humanity First Foundation, which works against poverty, and also organizes water camps in the summer and blanket distribution drives in the winter.
Kawatra’s organization Feeding India operates from the premise that a lot of hunger, and malnutrition, in India can be avoided if food wastage can be arrested.
The organization has nearly 5000 volunteers who rescue excess nutritious food from homes, marketplaces, standalone shops, bazaars, eateries and distributors of agricultural produce, and assemble it into meals for over 8 million hungry Indians each year.
Kumar began his work as an anti-hunger activist by collecting leftover food from celebration venues and distributing it among the poor and the homeless.
Today, he runs his own NGO called Serve Needy, and is specially focused on making sure that young children and the elderly get adequate supplies of fresh, nourishing food three times a day.
Also based in Hyderabad, he has recently kickstarted the Anna Datha project, which is geared toward making wholesome meals available to the children and elders at the NGO.
The IAS officer was just beginning his career in the early 1980s in Wayanad, Kerala under Indira Gandhi’s regime, when political upheaval in the region put its tribal natives in a risky place with their traditional livelihoods at stake.
Nair intervened and developed a model of governance where Wayanad was opened up to tourists from the world over, and the income from tourism went to ensure that locals from the district had adequate, wholesome, freshly prepared food.
The success of this project has gone far enough to reverse malnutrition - for good, we hope - in the area.
Harshil, a Bangalore-based engineer, runs Let’s Spread Love, which is a comminity comprising nearly 4000 plus, that organizes monthly food drives to feed the hungry. Let's Spread Love has presence in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi Pune, Warangal, and Gurgaon.
The organization has a strict policy on never accepting cash donations, and insist all donors and supporters to help instead with a fully cooked and packed meal.
They have served nearly 1,80,000 meals so far, at sites checked for depth of need and the number of hungry people that could be reached. Harshil hopes they can bring healthy food to the poor in Mumbai and Bhubaneswar by the close of the year.
These massive efforts are being made so no man, woman or child has to go hungry. We have a long way to go, but the good thing is that we are making baby steps toward the light.
It is up to us as a society of humans to hold each other up and offer solidarity and support so we find ourselves in contentment soon.