Three years ago, when four engineering students Dileep Adiga, Anish Hegde, Ananth T Pai and Jeevan Geo Philip were on a brain-storming session as students at the NMAM Institute of Technology in Karkala, they decided to address the problem of malnutrition. The next big question before them was how to deal with the issue. Cooking food every day and distributing it was not feasible. That was when Dileep Adiga, a techie based in Udupi -- the temple town infamous for the vast amounts of food from temples being wasted and dumped into garbage bins -- decided that this food can instead be given to the needy. They embarked on a mission to collect leftover or extra food from wedding halls and public functions and distribute it to the poor.
Dileep Adiga, the team leader, said, "We first set up a database of organizations that need help in the form of food. In the last two years, we have distributed nearly 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh plates of food to the needy. The turning point was during the thirteenth day ritual performed after the death of senior BJP leader Dr V S Acharya. We saw that food for nearly 10,000 people was left behind. We are grateful to Dr Acharya's family who allowed us to distribute the leftover food. We gave it to a couple of organizations and went to the slums and distributed the same. We realized this could bring about a change. A few like-minded volunteers, mostly students, joined in and we covered a major portion of Udupi through a door-to-door campaign," he said.
People were told that they could either contribute directly or inform the team if they spotted leftover food. We enlightened them about the organizations and places they could donate their food to. We encouraged people to celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries by helping the needy. “At one point, we were all party-hoppers. We used to spend almost Rs 10,000 per party. We then cut down our expenditure to Rs 2,000 and the remaining Rs 8,000 went to the needy. We restrict cash transactions and encourage people to try and visit the poor if possible.
In January this year, we launched the Annadhana Trust. The 13-member trust comprises only one non-techie," he said. Annadhana foundation with the support of all the volunteers aims for a hunger free India. India one of the superpowers of the world also hosts one of the biggest groups of starving people in the world. The food that we waste mostly inevitably land in the garbage bins. But if we can play our roles responsibly and take only as much as we intend to eat, the saved food will find its way into the empty stomachs of those, who cannot even afford for food. Team Annadhana wants every Indian to be part of this project and experience the happiness in donating and spreading a smile.
Dilip R Adiga, who leads the team, told "We initially circulated pamphlets explaining our cause and opened a website. We started getting calls from marriage hall owners. When we get a call, we go there in an auto rickshaw before 3.30pm, so that the food can be distributed to the needy for dinner on that day." Caterers also extended their support by letting them borrow the vessels, which they return later. Anish Hegde, another member, said: "Till date, we have distributed about 20,000 plates of meals. We also accept birthday/anniversary donations wherein people donate part of their wealth to the needy. Some donate 10 kg bag of rice and other grocery items." He added that the likes on their Facebook page 'Annadhana' are increasing day by day.
Initially, the volunteers would visit and collect leftover food. Now with word spreading in Udupi, they get calls from people. Since Udupi is a small town, it is easy to reach places. They also have a dedicated auto service and utensils to transfer food. Once they have a strong volunteer base, the same system will be started in Mangalore and Bengaluru. The team plans to start a Facebook campaign on food wastage. They are particular about ensuring quality of food which is distributed only after tasting it.Stale food or rotten stuff is rejected.
The team has 150 volunteers, mostly engineering students and techies from the three cities. Through the trust, they have launched a Fresh Fruits and Grocery Supplies (FFGS) campaign. With FFGS, Annadhana aims to provide a more balanced diet and more importantly a consistent and regular food supply to those in need. Several supporters have vowed to fund supplies to kitchens of various independent orphanages and homes for the differently -abled. An online campaign will soon be launched, said Jeevan Geo Philip.
Gururaj Paramesha, a techie and also a trust member, said "Through the BAD project (Birthday Anniversary Donation) we inspire people to donate or celebrate their special occasion with the needy. A mobile app will soon be launched with a list of organizations and institutions that accept food."Janardhan N, founder secretary of Spandana Rehabilitation Centre for Mentally-challenged, Nejar, who is benefitted from Annadhana's initiative told "Many a times, they themselves have come to our institution and served the food. This shows their real concern. Even their parents were not aware of their initiative as these engineers were engaged in their noble work without craving for any publicity.''
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