Mumbai Dabbawallas’ Roti Bank initiative is leading by example in eliminating hunger and reducing food waste.
The Mumbai Dabbawalas Association had taken step to address the issue. With the help of (Retd.) IPS Officer, former Commissioner of Police, Mumbai/ DGP of Maharashtra, D. Sivanandhan, and UK-based businessman, Nitin Khanapurkar, they began their war against hunger through the ‘Roti Bank’ platform.
Firmly guided by the philosophy of ‘Anna Daan is Maha Daan’ (Donating food is the best charity), they set up the Roti Bank to feed the hungry
Under the leadership of Mumbai Dabbawalas’ Chief and Spokesperson, Subhash Talekar, with the patronage of (Retd.) IPS Officer – former Commissioner of Police, Mumbai and DGP of Maharashtra, D. Sivanandhan, and UK-based businessman, Nitin Khanapurkar , this unique NGO thus came into fruition almost two years ago.
Using their world-renowned delivery techniques, they prevent food from being wasted at weddings and parties to pass it on to the poor and hungry who are struggling to survive. They are only a call away from almost all celebrations, even when they are off-duty.
They collect all the leftover food that was not served, and check its quality before packing it up to take it to a nearby street for to distribute among the homeless. This is the dabbawala’s ‘Roti Bank’ in action.
While D. Sivanandhan donated the first van for the project at Lower Parel station to kickstart the scheme, the Mumbai Roti Bank has rolled out another three to four food vans.
“We are enhancing the Roti Bank’s capabilities by providing GPS-tracked vehicles, and a help line number where people can call in case they have excess food,” said D. Sivanandhan
Subhash Talekar said, “We have a way of finding out whether the food is stale or not. We have done ‘Hunger Mapping’ to find where food is most needed. Our GPS-tracked vans collect excess food from restaurants, eateries, clubs, five star hotels, events, public functions or weddings, besides households, and distribute them to poor, hungry and needy people,”.
Some of the vans are also equipped with refrigeration systems. Two dabbawalas also travel in the van from 4 pm to 2 am to collect food from places willing to give it away. These timings have been devised to coincide with lunch and dinnertime where the chances of availability of leftover food are higher.
“We have a way of finding out whether the food is stale or not. We have done ‘Hunger Mapping’ to find where food is most needed. We also have refrigeration to retain the food”
Currently, the Roti Bank caters to the needy in south and central Mumbai but will be extended to other areas of Mumbai in the near future.
The NGO primarily targets hospitals where patients and their families come from various parts of the country, but do not have sufficient money or resources to satiate their hunger.
The Roti Bank is also planning to get hold of more refrigerators and storage spaces to manage storage better, but they prefer to transport fresh food to those who are starving and in desperate need of food immediately.
Nitin Khanapurkar says, “With the Mumbai Roti Bank going live, we hope that hotels, restaurants as well as event and party organisers will take advantage of this opportunity and call us when they have extra food, so it can be collected while it is still fresh and distributed among the hungry people. Many of the people being served are children and working adults earning minimum wage, who need assistance to make ends meet. It is essential that we redirect perfectly edible surplus food away from the landfill to the people who really need it.”
For more information on Roti Bank,you can also visit the website: www.rotibankindia.org