India is a country where millions of people do not have enough to eat.
India is among one of the world’s fastest growing economies, but poverty is still the biggest challenge that leaves over millions of people without enough to eat, especially children. As India moves toward urbanization, food wastefulness has increasingly become both a social and environmental concern.
It was this inexcusable problem of food waste that compelled a computer science professor from Asansol in West Bengal to take action. Chandra Sekhar Kundu, the founder of an organization called the Food Education Economic Development (FEED), through his organization and with a team of students began contacting food vendors around the campus to collect left-over unused food that would otherwise have been discarded, and distribute it to needy children and the elderly. They also began to collect untouched food from hostels, restaurants, and cafeterias several times a week.
It had come to Kundu’s attention just how much food waste there had been in his own college canteen alone. After speaking with the staff, he discovered how this wasteful practice was in fact normal in their operations, and how the practice was even more pronounced in the local hostels. From this experience, Kundu encouraged these kitchens to be more conscientious about the problem, and try to avoid wasting good food; he began to encourage his students not to be wasteful with their own food as well. Kundu began to expand the scope of his development program by accessing a “Right To Information” (RTI) report from the Food Corporation of India (FCI). He found the results distressing. “I was shocked to know … that around 22,000 metric tonnes of food grain had gone bad over the past two years in FCI warehouses across the country. This amount of food is enough to feed around one crore children,” Chandra said according to The Better India report.
Kundu discovered that the food waste that occurred in his college alone were staggering.
He discovered that the waste generation in government warehouses had declined due to being sold through tenders, but the facilities were still responsible for much waste due to poor conditions, which caused putrefaction, product damage, rats etc. So, rather than relying on slow bureaucratic government actions to solve the problem, Kundu decided to do as much as he could himself. “We have the right to eat, not to waste. Also, while it is difficult to provide food to everybody, we can try to do something for as many people as we can. With this in mind, I launched my initiative Save Food Save Life in 2015 with the help of my students,” he said. Through this initiative, Kundu and his team began contacting local canteen owners to persuade them to curb their waste of still-good food, or to donate excess food to the needy. They also produced several short films on the topic of food waste, and in late 2016, their organization partnered with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
The biggest challenge Kundu faces is time management, making sure food is delivered in time, before it gets no longer good.
Kundu shared that, one great benefit of this campaign is that it eases the burden of needy families who don’t have enough to eat, and are therefore forced to send their children out to beg for money. With a dependable source of sustenance, such children are more likely to be able to attend school. Kundu is also planning to raise enough money to build a school for such children. Overall, Kundu shared that his main message to the people of India, “Let’s not be embarrassed by our food waste. If we can all be honest about it, that means we have identified the problem, and now we can insert solutions to that.”