BENGALURU: inki Chowhan is a homemaker, mother of two and pioneer of a burgeoning movement in Bengaluru. The woman behind the concept of Share a Meal, the 47-year-old has shown how a simple idea can turn into a mass movement. Share a Meal involves taking fresh, homemade food from hundreds of kitchens in the city to slumdwellers.
It was in November 2015 that Pinki first hit upon this ingenious idea. Backed by her children Jessie and Prithvi and husband Rajesh, she put up Facebook posts inviting people to donate home-cooked food. They also roped in their friends.
“My mother always wanted to do something that would make a difference. Her concept never involved taking money from people. She wanted people to invest their time and effort in cooking the food that would reach slum dwellers,” says Jessie.
Jessie’s friend Anmol, who has been a part of this initiative right from the start, says, “We expected not more than 150 boxes of food the first time. But to our surprise, there were about 300.”
They have served meals to 20,480 people in 13 slums so far. Share a Meal distributes food on the fourth Saturday of every month and it focuses on feeding children and the elderly. Today, the initiative distributes food to at least 1,500 people in a month. And this number is only increasing.
Getting the food to the slums
It all begins at the 30 collection centres spread across the city. Word is spread mostly through Facebook. Those interested in donating food collect containers from the collection centre closest to their home. Each container set costs just `10. The donors then cook the food at their homes, pack it in these containers and deposit it at the collection centres. These centres are manned by 70-odd volunteers who run a quality check on the food.
The volunteers then take the packets to the designated slum and distribute it among the people. “The collection and distribution is done within a span of three hours (between 12.30pm and 2.30pm). We ensure that the food is still warm when distributed,” says Anmol, a 24-year-old CA aspirant. The volunteers also make it a point to get feedback on the food.
The first drive at a slum in JP Nagar was a challenge as many slumdwellers were suspicious. But the team got in touch with the slum representative and explained what Share a Meal was all about.
Word spread soon and now the team has no trouble convincing the authorities. It is Jessie who zeroes in on one slum every month.
“I am the event manager and my brother Prithvi, who is studying in the US, is designing our website which will launch soon. In fact, it is not just my family that is involved. People who donate food do it on a regular basis. Similarly, even the volunteers are regular. We are one big family today because of this initiative,” says the CA aspirant.
Ritika Jain concurs. This 26-year-old jewellery designer has been a volunteer for Share a Meal since May last year. Ritika came to know about the initiative through a poster while taking a stroll in Jayanagar. Today even her family pitches in. “My mother makes the food while my brother helps me pack the food. I then take an auto or a cab to the designated slum,” she says.
Jessie adds that this feeling of satisfaction while serving others is immense. In fact, her family never expected this kind of support. “I never imagined that people would be so giving. Turns out everybody wants to help. They only need a chance,” she says.