Coronavirus Pune: How about feeding the hungry?

Coronavirus Pune: How about feeding the hungry?

The outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown has led to global health and financial crisis. To fight this invisible enemy, the whole world has come together. 

Several organisations and teams are working round the clock to assist the needy. But more such humanitarian efforts are required to help those who have lost their jobs, have been rendered homeless and cannot pay for their next meal.

In India, the plight of migrant workers making an arduous journey back home by traversing the length and breadth of the country shook the entire world.

The problems are only increasing. David Beasley, executive director, UN World Food Programme (WFP), recently said, “While dealing with COVID-19 pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic.”

The world needs to come together to fight hunger pandemic as well.

Cooking a little extra
With no house help around, we are cooking for our family. Can’t we cook for two extra people? This thought process led IT professional Navdeep Singh to start his initiative – Two Meals Extra. 

Singh, along with other volunteers, has been providing meals to migrants, daily wage labourers and the underprivileged. These are the people who have lost their jobs and are not able to afford food and necessary supplies. 

“I am a sardar, and Punjabis are known to do seva and organise langar. During the initial days of the pandemic, I helped a woman who had put up a post on social media seeking assistance. She was relocating from Hinjewadi to Pimple Nilakh as her flat owner had asked her to vacate the apartment. This encouraged me to do more for others during this crisis,” says Singh.

He decided to help the needy. “There are organisations and people taking donations and helping the needy. But how do we know if the aid is going to the right people? I wondered how else we could contribute. That’s when the idea struck me that people can make a little extra food at home and donate it. I thought, I will ask them to make two extra chapati and subzi, and I would distribute the food,” says Singh who has taken leave from work to do community service. 

A month back, Singh was collecting and distributing 15 meals a day. “Today, we provide more 1,000 meals,” he says, adding that the numbers have grown organically. “A friend of mine, who is associated with schools in slum areas, told me that the condition is pathetic. Slum-dwellers are reaching out to people asking for food. I sought the help of WhatsApp asking people to help the hungry and people started contacting me,” says Singh.

They have formed teams in the areas they operate. “The ones distributing in Baner get a fair idea of how many packets need to be provided there. That way, we know how much of the remaining provisions can be distributed in Aundh, Hinjewadi, Tathewadi and so on. After collecting the food, the volunteers come to a common point, and the distribution team then takes it forward,” he explains.

Singh has also been providing food packets to those who are helping with the cooking. “I provide them with food packets so that they can pack the cooked food. They do not need to do anything extra,” he says, adding that he has started a chain and anybody willing to volunteer can participate. “If you are living in a society or building with more than 30 flats, you can contribute,” Singh says.

For those who cannot provide cooked meals, Singh says that they can donate ingredients and the team can get the food prepared. “We have also tied up with a local gurudwara which prepares the food for us and we distribute it,” he adds.

They are finding different ways to reach out to people. Singh says that they have tied up with a few auto-rickshaw drivers who distribute the food. 

“We leave around 50 packets of food at police barricades because people come and ask for food there,” he says, adding that he has also tied up with restaurants who cook for them for Rs 10.

He says that the whole process has left him humbled. “Our PM Narendra Modi had asked people to light candles, and we all did. When I went out, I saw hungry poor people lighting candles. Despite their situation, they showed solidarity for the nation. Now, we must stand by them,” he says. 

In the last month, they have provided 20,000 meals to the needy.

You can help too: If you want to contribute a meal for two, call on 841207816.

‘We will continue our efforts’
City-based NGO Saad Pratishthan has been distributing both cooked food and raw ingredients to transgender people, sex workers, migrants and other needy people. 

Throwing light on the same Amit Dhole, trustee, Saad Pratishthan, says, “Currently, we are distributing around 1,100-1,200 cooked meals and 2,600 packets of raw material, which is sufficient for a family for a month.” They have also distributed 1,000 health kits.

They have offered assistance to the needy in areas like Koregaon Park, Viman Nagar, Hinjewadi and others. 

“We are trying to identify people who do not have a voter ID or ration card. That’s our priority,” he says.

They have partnered with NGOs, theatre groups and other organisations in different areas. “We have tied up with Natak Company, Saheli, Mashal and others. Through their network, we identify people and distribute. It’s a mix of our networks and volunteers who identity the areas,” says Dhole.

He says that they have 15-20 people involved in the initiative. They have collaborated with restaurants who cook food at a bare minimum cost of Rs 10. “There is Tiranga Bhuvan (Kothrud), The Urban Foundry (Balewadi) and Poona Guest House (Laxmi Road),” he informs, adding, “Most hotel staff stay in their respective premises, so they do not need to go out and that’s the advantage.”

The volunteers are taking all kinds of safety precautions while distributing food.

There are various categories of people based on which they divide the distribution. “First is the slum dweller, who has the ration card and voter card. Then some migrants live in makeshift shelters,” says Dhole.

Initially, there were many homeless people who required cooked meals, but then the municipal corporation made the right arrangement at shelter homes. “Only people who do not want to stay in those shelters for some reason are living on the streets,” he says.

He is amazed with the way needy people are helping fellow humans. “When I met a transgender and offered them food, they were like, ‘Right now, we have food so you can give this to the more needy’. They said they will ask, if they need food from us after 10-15 days. There are others too who have said that they have enough and to distribute it to their neighbours who need it more,” says Dhole. 

The challenges for these people will not end after the lockdown is called off. “Their incomes will not start immediately after and there are many others like them. To help them, we are collecting data. We might reach out to them even after the lockdown,” says Dhole.

Reach out: If you want to help call on 9822598207.

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