Volunteers distribute packaged home food to the poor and hungry.

A food drive in Coimbatore like no other home cooked meals for the hungry
news Human Interest Monday, October 24, 2016 - 17:55

 On a Sunday morning, when many in the city are still rolling out of bed, 30 Coimbatore residents are up and about, preparing for their day ahead. Meet the volunteers of Coimbatore’s Food Bank, whose mission is to end hunger. 

Gathered at a children’s park in Gandhipuram, these youngsters are packing an apple, variety rice and a bottle of water into a container. Their plan is to divide themselves into smaller groups and ride out on their two-wheelers to different parts of the city to distribute food to hundreds of people who are poor and hungry. The volunteers on an average cover 37 places in Coimbatore including Ramanathapuram, RS Puram, Saibaba colony, Coimbatore railway station and many more.

But their mission, they say, is clear. They only distribute food to the mentally challenged, differently abled and the elderly. Why? “We do not want to encourage laziness in people. We want to give food to only needy people. And we know where to find them,” says 28-year-old Vaishnavi Balaji, who started “Food Bank” in Coimbatore.

About a year ago, Vaishnavi, a former assistant professor at a private college, wanted to do something for the society without spending money. Her trigger to start the project came when she was returning home after dropping off her daughter at school.  “I saw an old woman who was asking for water and a bread packet. I ran and got it from a nearby house. The woman said that if you would not have given me water, I would have died,” she recounts.

Inspired by Sneha Mohandas who started “Food Bank” in Chennai, Vaishnavi started the same venture in Coimbatore.

One of the most difficult tasks for Vaishnavi was to find volunteers. But thanks to a Facebook page she created, volunteers slowly poured in to provide food. “I started with 10 packets of food and today, we have about 100 active volunteers and we distribute about 300 packets of food in one day,” she says proudly.

The group claims to have distributed about 8000 food packets to people in the last one year. Food distribution takes place on Thursdayevenings and Sundays.

Why a food bank? “I feel if all of us prepare one extra meal in our houses daily for some needy people, then there will be no hunger in this world,” she says.

A volunteer can help by preparing food at home or by distributing it. Vaishnavi explains, “We do not force anyone to prepare food and come, there are many college students who cannot make food but we call them to help in distributing food. Also, there are aged people who want to send food but cannot help in volunteering. We go and collect food from them.”

However, this group does not accept food leftover from parties or weddings. “We want to provide fresh food to needy people, there are many other NGOs who take wasted food. We only accept fresh homemade food,” she points out.

While many of their experiences are heart-warming, the group occasionally encounter bad ones too.  “Once, we were abused by an aged woman for giving her food,” says Anand, a volunteer.

But that has never stopped them from going back and giving her food, he notes.

As the group winds up their morning meeting, they shuffle out of the park bearing packages of food.  Spotting the volunteers, an elderly man waits just outside the park. A volunteer hands him a package of food and with that the group disperse, getting on to their two-wheelers to spread more smiles.



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