You don't need statistics to tell you about the hunger around you. It is staring at you everywhere you go in your cities and while beggary is a crime we need to discourage, sharing is what our society needs. We can't be pointing fingers at the government always, we need to extend that hand and shoulder some responsibility of the world we live in, the one we want to change.
Mumbai is home to the largest slum in Asia – not a happy record
A lot of things appeal to us about the big cities, amidst all the opulence is naked reality that most of us dismiss as an inclusive package. We tell ourselves that we need to face the facts and someone else must deal with this reality. Who is this someone? As consumers of the privileges granted to the citizens of a free country is it only the duty of our elected representatives to preserve humans and the humanity that is at stake? How do we turn a blind eye to the hungry on the road when all of us must have borne hunger pangs at some point in our lives? It is this starving belly that Sana could not tear her eyes from, it is this hunger that she decided to satiate.
Six years ago when Sana moved to Mumbai she observed this stark contrast of the financial capital of India and she stopped to notice this reality of the 'maximum city' which has been highly covered in various media and still goes disregarded by most. There are people under the highways and on the streets who don't belong there and you can't wait for an eternity for the government to feed them, clothe them, house them because people, you know, are perishable.
Feed'em addresses food insecurity, and thus dignity
Sana started the Feed'em movement that crowd sources food for the food insecure in Mumbai from urban townships and families. Food insecurity is when people don't know where there next meal is coming from. About 20 crore Indian population is currently food insecure. Feed'em has an extremely fluid model making real impact at the ground level. These are unemployed people or construction workers who can resort to criminal activities if their basic needs are not attended to. She recaps her initial challenges with street drives which were very raw experiences but very enlightening as she saw food packets and bags being lifted out of her hands and disappearing in a mass of hungry faces, 'there was never enough irrespective of how many packets you carried.'
Night shelters in Mumbai are swarming with people who have no access to aids and donations and are not even listed in any citizen's register. These unfortunate, non-entities are given the dignity of a meal by the Feed'em Movement. Sana produces an impetus to the students at night schools as she motivates them to be regulars at the schools in return for rations for the family. This safeguarding of their hunger allows these families to budget for getting education and making the difference that will elevate them tomorrow.
Entrusting the poor with decision making on their menu
Sana remembers knocking at the doors of her neighbours in her residential complex to gather as much food and drove down to these flyovers and streets to feed the hungry. Having started with distribution of left-over food, today Sana and her team of volunteers distribute food grains in different locations of Mumbai. Perishability for processed food, she realized, was a risk that she didn't want to subject these people too. Sana also observed that broth and diluted soup or cereals were a complete meal to them and these receivers could feed many more stomachs, for a longer period with the limited grains they had. She now conducts collections drives from her community in cash or kind and has tied up with the local grocery stores who package the food in smart pack sizes and then hire cars or use volunteers' cars to distribute the food.
'I can' so 'I will'
Sana utilizes her commutation time to and fro from office to plan her next drive and somewhere between bringing the change rather than awaiting it while balancing a corporate job she has found her peace, she has found her purpose. Not waiting for someone else to make the change, she stepped ahead to do it herself and many joined her. Her nameless, faceless force of volunteers are impacting the society by sparing it a thought and a helping hand. Her team comprises of volunteers, albeit a fluctuating number every volunteer has his own role, helping with money, time or by influencing more people to be a part of Feed'em.
'People have tried to dissuade me telling me it's not my job and I have been urged to give it up in favor of agencies like food bank which are nonexistent in Mumbai or the government', recounts Sana 'but why relegate the change to someone else when you can do it?' She feels blessed with family and friends who have helped her with ideation, guidance and finding ways and means to help her realize her vision.
6:1 ratio – an easy maths for even the discalculia
For Sana the deeper she delved, the more of an eye-opener her initiative has been. She found out that there are about 20 crore food insecure people in India as per a UN report. 'We are a population of 25 crores and such if 6 people got together to feed 1 food insecure we could eradicate the problem of hunger in India, a very easy maths.' Sana believes one needs to have a cause to live a meaningful life, and that we need to burst the bubble of self-catering satisfaction that each one of us has created for ourselves. We believe each one of us needs to shed this cloak of warmth that is slowly smothering the human in us and share our plates with others to make it twice as wholesome.
The Feed'em movement started 2 years back and has donated 3500 kilos of food
2000 sanitary napkins
Raised money for books for 20 night schools in Mumbai
The Feed'em movement is now active in Delhi too.