Eating fancy food at weddings, parties with endless appetisers and festivals spent exchanging mithais is a common sight in India. While we do have a great tradition of packing up leftovers for guests who come over, parties and events see huge food wastage. And on the other end of the spectrum, we see homeless people and beggars struggling to eat a single meal a day. NGOs and food drives have started distributing food to the needy for a long time, but it’s vital we all contribute to this.
Today, on World Food Day (16th October), we not only celebrate the amazing food that we have the privilege of indulging in but also shed a light on the importance of food charity in India, and ways you can donate food safely.
Did You Know?
According to FAO estimates in ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2020 report, 189.2 million people are undernourished in India. By this measure, 14% of the population is undernourished in India.
5 Ways You Can Be Charitable With Your Food
1. Donating At Langars
The option of donating money to langars across the country is the best for people who live in remote areas. It is advisable to do so as the ongoing pandemic can make travelling difficult. For those who are fortunate enough to have access to a langar service at a neighbourhood gurudwara and similar places, go ahead and donate food to feed hungry souls. Here’s what you can donate:
- Grains – wheat and rice
- Pulses & dals – masoor dal, kala chana, moong dal, chana dal, rajma, chole, toor dal
- Vegetables – any and every
- Dairy products – milk, dahi and more
Make sure you connect with the head of the organisation and discuss your wish for donation before you do so. Ask what the langar service is in need of, and then donate accordingly. Remember to check for the quality of products and opt for local sources.
2. Helping Out NGOs & Orphanages
In India, nearly 3,000 children die every day from hunger. Your small donation to your nearest NGO or orphanage can make a huge difference. There are tons of such organisations doing their best to provide a homelike environment and care for people in need. Most NGOs and orphanages have well-equipped kitchens. You can donate by:
- Giving staples like grains, vegetables, dairy products, and lentils
- Celebrating your special occasions at orphanages; most of these kids rarely get to eat cakes and sweets
- Making festivals special by ordering food for them from an F&B service
A number of NGOs distribute surplus food from restaurants, convention halls, social events, parties and homes to those who need it. You can volunteer and help drive the cause. Several feed travellers and sick people at bus stations, government hospitals, railway stations. You can help them by volunteering as well.
3. Offer Food To People Around You
The domestic help, drivers, nannies, cleaners, security guards, and more who left their place of work to go home due to the pandemic are slowly coming back. They are in desperate need of work and most importantly, having left their families home, they need good food that will help them stay safe. You can cook or order food from trusted sources and feed them.
- Feed your security guard, gardener, driver and domestic help
- Distribute food at low-income housing areas, most of them are currently unemployed
- Offer tiffins every weekend for those living far from home on their own
Remember, keep the food nutritious and healthy. If they can’t eat right then and there, make provisions for them to take the food home.
4. Providing Nourishment For School Students
As per the provisions of the National Food Security Act, 2013, children studying in classes 1 to 8 or within the age group of 6-14 years are entitled to one mid-day meal free of charge. This excludes a huge chunk of students and in some places, the quality of food is just not good. Many are fed the same food day after day. You can help this new generation of kids stay in school and eat healthy by donating food in local schools.
- Prepare nutritious food and donate to local schools as and when you desire
- Put up a free pickup service in the canteen
- Hire local food eateries (roti-sabzi centres) that serve home-like food to distribute food to the students
Students can’t eat all vegetables but they are the ones who require all the nutrition they can get. Try new fun recipes and make mealtime enjoyable for them.
5. Feeding Stray Animals
India has a huge population of strays and many of them were left to die when the lockdown took place. Oftentimes, they are fed biscuits and leftover restaurant chicken, which might seem economical but is actually unhealthy for them. Biscuits and other baked goods are bad for dogs if they are sweetened with xylitol. They can cause dogs’ blood sugar to drop and can also cause liver failure. Similarly, onion and garlic are bad for dogs and are the most often used spices in restaurant food.
- Give them rice with protein like leftover meat from a butcher’s shop
- Mix store-bought food with rice
- Ask for leftovers at your local restaurants, you can set up a deal wherein they can feed the strays themselves
- Prepare a fish broth from parts that are seen as waste and mix with rice
Other healthier options could be rice, dal, and boiled vegetables. Remember, not every street or corner can be a favourable venue for feeding animals. Early mornings and late nights are the best times to feed stray animals.
5 Safety Measures To Ensure The Food You Donate Remains Safe For Consumption
While hot food is a boon, packaging hot food in plastic containers does more harm than good. The food should be completely cooked and then left to cool down a little. It can be reheated if required. NGOs and orphanages have the equipment needed to ensure people get warm food. For school canteens, you can carry an induction stovetop.
Solid, spill-proof packaging is a must while donating food. While plastic containers are cheap, make sure you reuse them instead of throwing them away. A great option when distributing food to nearby communities and people who work around you is to use sustainable packaging. Feed them in stainless steel utensils and get then washed, you can have them eat at peace in your building premises. Another great option is Patravali (Pattal, Vistaraku, Vistar, Khali), an Indian eating plate or trencher made with broad dried leaves.
The pandemic has created even more awareness about the need for cleanliness. This has become the key part of all food production, packaging and cooking. Make sure you handle all food items, fresh or packed, with the utmost care. Wipe down boxes and use gloves while cooking along with masks and remember. Wash and clean vegetables and fruits every single time. Avoid uncooked menu items like salads.
4. Expiry Dates
While donating packed items to langars and organisations, make sure you check the expiry dates. Buy food with a long shelf life and expiry date that’s months away. For perishables, purchase fresh from the farmer if possible or choose a trusted source. Dairy items need to be refrigerated, remember to take this into consideration.
5. Hygienic Delivery
The mask has become a compulsory part of our lives for good. But that’s not enough when it comes to handling and delivering food. Before using boxes and utensils, wash and wipe what needs to be. Use gloves and face shields. Avoid direct contact if you are serving food. Rather, use a table to fill up and set dishes where people can pick them up.
If you can, ask what is needed before you donate food. There are several ways to donate food to the needy. Make sure you reach out to the right organisations and abide by their rules. It’s a great time to receive blessings by feeding the ones who need it the most.