Aspiring a world with no food waste and zero hunger
Beside a narrow passage entering Hatirjheel, Asmani Akhter sits in a tiny space which is hardly enough for one, to beg – and that’s the only way for her to feed her son. Sleeping on the footpath at night for eight months now, Asmani finds it difficult to provide food for her son daily. “Whenever he cries out in hunger, as a mother, I can do nothing but endure the pain,” she says.
Bangladesh has achieved progress in reducing poverty and extreme poverty rates - the current rate is 21.8 percent and 11.3 percent respectively, which were 23.1 percent and 12.1 percent in 2017. Although there has been an evident decrease in the rate of poverty, the number of people going to bed with a growling stomach and yearning for food is not few in the country.
While 821 million people starve almost every day, each year, 1.6 billion tonnes of food worth approximately 1.2 trillion dollars, go to waste – which is about one third of the food produced globally, according to a report named FAO 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report. The report also states that the approximate worth of food wastage in developing countries including Bangladesh is around 310 billion dollars.
Keeping global hunger in mind, October 16 is celebrated as World Food Day every year. From its core, the day aims to promote zero hunger by active involvement of people around the world.
Moreover, with the concept of benefiting many people from leftover foods if they are not thrown away, many countries around the world have started what is called ‘global food banking’ - a process of collecting unused and extra food from different sources.
Prochesta Foundation introduced the idea in Bangladesh on May 19, 2016, titled ‘Prochesta Food Banking Project’ to help the large number of underprivileged people in this country. The idea is simple: start food banking by collecting from different events to restaurants in Bangladesh. In the capital city alone, there are a huge number of people who struggle to eat full meals every day.
“If you live in Dhaka, then a single glance out of your car window will show you that a lot of homeless people are living on footpaths and railway stations, among other places. Often these people go to sleep with an empty stomach. They do small jobs like selling papers, carrying baggage and so on, and can hardly manage three complete meals a day,” said Ikram Uddin Abir , Chief Patron, Proceshta Foundation.
Since its inception by of a group of youth from the Prochesta Foundation, Arif and the team have been promoting food banking on Facebook to involve more citizens.
Within 72 hours of announcing the initiative, the organization received around 500 calls from various sources ranging from marriage ceremonies to all sorts of different programs across Dhaka city. Arif pointed out that Procheshta is not feeding them on a regular basis, so there is no chance of making the people dependent on this and stop looking for work. Jagodish Chandra Roy, Chief of Management, says, “We get around 3 to 4 calls each week, and can feed around 2500 people every week.” Currently together with Dhaka, food banking has become quite popular in Sylhet, Chattogram and Rangpur.
Everything from collecting food to distributing among hungry people is tackled by volunteers. “Definitely it helps us organise the volunteers, and manage everything from beforehand if the contributor informs us a few days before the event,” Ikramuddin added. A total of 300 volunteers, which was 200 at the beginning, 150 volunteers in Dhaka and another 150 in other cities, are passionately working day and night to eradicate hunger. Mostly students from different public and private universities, the volunteers are assigned with areas based on their access and proximity.
Till date, the team has distributed food among 0.13 million people around the country. One of the biggest challenges has been to determine the right amount of food for a location. However, the volunteers have gathered very useful knowledge about the locations as to what amount of food is better to distribute for which place.
After collecting the food, the first job is to pack the food which is done with the help of poly-bags or one time food packets. Jagodish is thinking about working on the packaging as to make it more convenient as well as environment-friendly.
With the slogan “#Say_No_To_Hunger”, the foundation campaigned from October 1 to raise awareness about reducing food wastage and zero hunger. On the occasion of the World Food Day, it distributed food among 2200 people near Tejgoan Railway Station. “Even though we wanted to distribute food in 10 different places around Dhaka city, due to some last minutes decisions by the authority we were allowed to conduct it only by choosing one location,”Jagodish adds. By raising awareness among people about eliminating food waste while distributing additional food to underprivileged people, helping to decrease the number of people suffering from hunger, Procheshta plans to work closely with school and college students in the future.
Procheshta can be reached on the following number to request food pickup: 01842002023
Khukumoni Somaj Kollan Songstha does not directly deal with food wastage but mainly works on alleviating hunger. It is a non-profit organisation focusing on the hunger of street/slum kids and on ones who can’t afford a decent meal. This generous idea started off five years ago from Jagannath University where a group of friends started providing food to the underprivileged kids around their campus. On the verge of doing so, they started gaining recognition within society and ended up carrying out this noble deed officially since February, 2018. They operate a unique program called ‘Khukumuni 1 Taka Lunch’.
The prime reason behind not giving away the meals for free is to boost up the self-esteem of the ones being aided. The organization does not want them to feel that they are receiving charity. On a monthly basis, over 700 kids get to enjoy nutritious meals for just Tk1. The volunteers gather all the resources and the food is often prepared by the ‘ayas’ of particular slums. Some school teachers also contribute to the preparation process. Along with that, they often buy food from local restaurants/hotels and serve it to the kids. All the dedication in exchange of just Tk1 is quite hard to believe. The only way they can and have been making this possible is because of the aid (donation) that they have been receiving since the beginning. At first, friends and family started contributing and gradually a lot more mutual acquaintances started donating, and are continuing to do so. Khukumoni is also working on bringing in foreign aid for their program and are open to all sorts of donations.
For donation; 4213101017406 Pubali Bank Ltd 01911144363-- Bkash
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It is obvious that projects like Procheshta foundation and Khukumoni Somaj Kollan Songstha bring us a ray of hope. However, these initiatives can confirm their utmost possibilities when different stakeholders globally including the government, international organizations, private sector and civil society share their part of burden and work jointly.
Apart from raising concern regarding food wastage, a report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) states that the taken actions against food waste is fragmented, thus the responses being proved inadequate. Thus the numbers in food waste statistics is growing at an alarming rate. The reports estimate that if the food is being wasted at its current pace, the quantity of wasted food each year will rise by a third by 2030, when 2.1 billion tonnes of food will either be lost or thrown away, equivalent to 66 tonnes per second.
As an intergovernmental organization, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is in a position to play the role of a neutral and independent facilitator. FAO intends to coordinate initiatives, activities and projects on food waste reduction at global level including the private sector and civil society. It is high time to unite for zero hunger.