As of October 2016, 15% of India’s population is undernourished. In the 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI) released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), India was placed at 97 out of 118 countries worldwide. This means that even war-torn countries like Iran, Iraq and Nigeria are doing better in feeding their respective populations.
Many individuals have taken it upon themselves to combat India’s hunger problem. One of them is Mohammed Aziz. Inspired by a 2015 article on The Logical Indian which described the efforts of a food bank in Chennai, Mr Aziz began a similar food bank in Hyderabad. Starting with a small and dedicated team of five people, today the Hyderabad food bank feeds over 30,000 people annually.
The Logical Indian interviewed Mr Aziz about the food bank’s success, his dedicated group of volunteers, and his thoughts on combating hunger in India.
What inspired you to help the hungry?
I have been interested in charity work since a very young age. When I read a post on The Logical Indian in 2015 regarding a food bank in Chennai, I got thinking about how it would be if each of us took the responsibility of feeding at least three or four people at a time. This is not a huge burden, and it would go a long way in helping the three or four lives. They are many homeless and differently abled people who find it difficult to manage even one meal a day. I feel no one should sleep on an empty stomach. I wanted to help make India a hunger-free nation.
Can you tell us a little about the journey?
When we started, we were a group of only five people. Today, we have 120 volunteers in Hyderabad alone. Initially, we shared our message with our families and friends. My mother was a passionate supporter. She cooked food for our first food drive and made 34 food packets. Soon, the Facebook page and group about the Hyderabad food bank began to take flight. After five food drives, I got calls from the people who wanted to donate food. Soon, our volunteer pool grew. We made it a point to conduct food drives every Sunday compulsorily. We also held food drives on special days like Republic Day, World Hunger Day, World Food Day, Independence Day and during festivals as well. Not interested in cash donations, our team only picks up packed home-cooked meals and distributes them among the poor and homeless.
What is your volunteer base?
We have people from across the country and from abroad who donate food online – particularly durable foods like biscuits and snacks – and send them to us to distribute. So now, the destitute are not just fed for a day but also have something to eat for the next two or three days. The Hyderabad food bank volunteer pool includes students, housewives, entrepreneurs – people from every walk of life. Our aim is to make Hyderabad a hunger-free city! Obviously, we can always do better work with more volunteers – the more, the better!
How has it been to see so much growth in such a short time?
In our early weeks, we distributed around 30 food packets every week. Today, every Sunday we distribute above 650 packets. Every year we distribute food to over 30,000 people. Additionally, the Hyderabad Food Bank has, in turn, acted as an inspiration for six other food banks which have sprung up in six different cities. Apart from food donation, we have distributed clothes and blankets. We have also rescued elderly homeless people and provided them shelter in old age homes. We have conducted special food drives for orphan children and held festival parties in orphanages. Until today, we have fed at least 3000 children around the city.
What measures do you think have to be taken on a national level to combat hunger?
We face many obstacles on our journey as a nation to make India hunger-free. However, it is still possible to make a hunger-free India a reality. Firstly, everybody’s involvement is required. Secondly, the government also should come with new and innovative initiatives for the homeless and the hungry. Thirdly, institutions like colleges and schools should take the initiative to support organisations which are working for hunger-free cities. They should involve their students in these activities and encourage them to further the cause. Fourthly, hotels, restaurants, corporate companies and marriage halls need to avoid wastage of food and ensure they have programs to support the hungry.
What message would you like to give The Logical Indian community?
I believe life is too short – so, help and support those who are in need in whatever way you can. Don’t wait for good things to happen: make them happen! If you cannot feed a hundred people, feed at least one. Join this organisation
Also Read: A Chennai Woman Opens Up A Food Bank