How India’s Robinhood Army Helps Feed the Poor

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Using surplus food from restaurants, the volunteer-run organization has served more than 85 million meals to the needy in India and around the world.

On a cold December evening in Delhi, 6-year-old Rani sits silently, barefoot, next to a nondescript road that also houses her hut made of tarpaulin and corrugated iron.

But recognizing an approaching car with a familiar face up front, she rushed towards it, trying to beat up other children who were also running towards the vehicle. They will soon be savoring the “favorite food” that the bhayas (brothers) and didis (sisters) in green swimsuits bring them frequently.

Rani’s parents – like many other children who live near her in self-constructed temporary shelters – can barely afford to provide her with two meals. So whenever this familiar-faced car visits her area, she and other children are running to find as much food as possible.

These familiar faces are “Robins” or volunteers of the Robinhood Army: a movement initiated by dozens of young people in India to collect surplus food and distribute it to the poor.

A zero-fund voluntary organization that draws its work force largely from young students and professionals, the Robinhood Army was formed in 2014 in Delhi with the aim of utilizing surplus food often wasted in restaurants and large gatherings. social.

“At the end of the day, almost every restaurant has some amount of spare food that is perfectly edible yet wasted. So what we do is try to contact them, collect that food from them and to distribute it among those who need it, ”says Abdul Wahid, a volunteer leader based in the Indian capital who has been associated with the organization for two years.

“In reality, the problem is not the availability of food but an uneven distribution. If the amount of food that we see wasted every day in different places is distributed among the needy, I don’t think anyone will sleep hungry. “said Wahid. TRT World.

‘Robin’ volunteers distribute food in the Saket region of Delhi. (Hanan Zaffar / Danish pandit / TRTWorld)

Poor food distribution in India

Wahid’s claim can be understood from the fact that even though India entered the list of top ten countries in terms of exports of agricultural products, 14 percent of the country’s population remains undernourished.

According to the 2021 World Hunger Index, India ranks 101st out of 116 countries with a level of hunger considered “severe”.

“Even though there are government-owned buffer stocks of food grains, people don’t have the purchasing power to buy them. 67% of people in our country need food security, but the public distribution system does not reach them, “he added. explains Ranjit Singh Ghuman, a leading agricultural economist.

“We have a very exclusive model where the concentration of wealth and income is in the hands of a few and that naturally puts us in a position where we are now,” said Ghuman. TRT World.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates 189.2 million people are undernourished in India according to its report “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2020”.

“We are aware of the enormous crisis we are facing. So occasionally going out for food drives will not help,” says Fariha, a 22-year-old volunteer, who spends her weekends working for the hospital. Robinhood Army.

“So we are constantly identifying more and more restaurants and canteens and trying to convince them to be our partners. These restaurants then provide us with food every day and we already have teams lined up to distribute it to various groups of people. slums that we have identified, ”she said. Recount TRT World.

Children gather around volunteer 'Robin' Fariha after the food distribution.

Children gather around volunteer ‘Robin’ Fariha after the food distribution. (Hanan Zaffar / Danish pandit / TRTWorld)

Robins relieving hunger

The Robinhood Army has succeeded in creating self-governing chapters around the world that look after their local communities. Whatever the costs of transport and logistics, they are the responsibility of the volunteers themselves.

“Usually, the small costs that we incur are related to transport and we spend them out of our pocket. We do not receive or take any money. Everything is done through food partnerships with our partners (restaurateurs)”, explains Wahid.

So far, more than 100,000 volunteers have served more than 85 million meals to the poor and needy in a dozen countries – targeting people living in slums, orphanages, retirement homes and patients trapped in urban areas. public hospitals.

“We have served 12.5 million people in Delhi alone,” said Manish Kumar Sah, who heads the Delhi section of Robinhood Army. TRT World.

“Taking inspiration from the Refood program in Portugal, we launched the Robinhood army on the streets of Delhi, but today our presence has grown to over 250 cities that include areas of low and middle income countries like Brazil, Nigeria, Pakistan and Uganda, ”adds Manish.

Without funds to expand their reach, the Robins are using the amplifying power of social media to attract more volunteers to their fold. “We photograph our records and upload them to platforms like Instagram and Facebook to maximize our reach and this is where we find a lot more people willing to join us. It has made us a bigger and bigger network,” explains Wahid.

“Thousands of people joined. Many more thousands are online to join us and work to alleviate hunger. The work is only completed at 1%!

Source: TRT World

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