After Chennai-based Dr Issa Fathima Jasmine started the first 'Ayyamittu Unn', the concept started becoming popular in other cities too.

Food for needy free of cost Community fridge concept picks up in BluruThe Public Fridge in BTM Layout
news Human interest Wednesday, August 01, 2018 - 18:24

In August 2017, Dr Issa Fathima Jasmine, an orthodontist from Chennai, made news when she set up a community fridge that provided free food to the needy. People across the city could keep their excess or leftover food, and even books or clothes, in this community fridge, called ‘Ayyamittu Unn’. And in less than a year, she not only set up three more in Chennai, she has even branched out to Bengaluru.

And since then, the concept caught on in the city.   

In November 2017, Jasmine helped set up the fridge in Bengaluru’s BTM Layout, which is helmed by Bala Harish Kumar, a 34-year-old who works at a management consultancy firm in Koramangala. Called 'The Public Fridge', the fridge is run by The Public Foundation.

“It works like the Ayyamittu Unn fridges in Chennai,” says Jasmine, the managing trustee of The Public Foundation. “It comprises two compartments - a fridge and a storage rack. While the fridge is for food, the rack is for the miscellaneous items such as books, clothes and shoes that people would like to donate.”

And while the fridge in BTM Layout is the only one under The Public Foundation, many people from across Indian cities have reached out to Jasmine, asking for guidance.

“I believe there are several others who have set up similar community fridges, but they are not associated with Ayyamittu Unn. We just give them guidance, and then they start their own initiative,” she says.

Setting up the first community fridge in Bengaluru

Jasmine had been looking to expand into other cities. However, the challenge was finding locals who could be responsible for the community fridge, and maintaining the quality standards of Ayyamittu Unn. 

That’s when Harish came in.

For him, it was on one of these daily trips to drop his daughter to school that he noticed garbage trucks picking up a lot of leftover food, dumped in a blue bin. “I also noticed how families around me would throw at least one or two helpings of food. It was painful to see it go to waste. So, I wanted to do something about it,” he says.

Inspired by Jasmine’s Ayyamittu Unn initiative, he wanted to start something similar. With Jasmine’s guidance, he decided to start one here, in Bengaluru.

“Harish was willing and enthusiastic about it. So, I gave him an NOC to start a community fridge under The Public Foundation’s guidelines,” Jasmine says.

Dr Issa Fathima Jasmine

Apart from those under The Public Foundation, there are several others who have been running community fridges in Bengaluru.

Take for example the one run by Byblos, a Lebanese restaurant in Indiranagar. Nilesh Bansode, the General Manager of Byblos, says that they have been running the community fridge for five years now. The 180 litre fridge was set up under the direction of the Rotary Club of Bengaluru.

“We stock it with 10 to 15 boxes of rice, dal and other food items that we prepare for the staff here; so the food is fresh. It is useful for a lot of workers and the needy here,” Nilesh says.

Similarly, residents of Brookfield in Whitefield inaugurated a community fridge to stop wastage of food and help the needy in January this year. This one, like Ayyamittu Unn, also allows residents to donate clothes, blankets and other materials too.

Skip and donate meal

In the one year since The Public Foundation set up the community fridge in Besant Nagar Tennis Club, the popularity was such that she was able to set up three more - in Aladur, Ashok Nagar and IT Highway respectively. 

Ayyamittu Unn, Aladur

Ayyamittu Unn, Ashok Nagar

Ayyamittu Unn, IT Highway

Celebrating their one-year anniversary, the Public Foundation has started a campaign called Skip to Donate.

Elucidating this, Jasmine says, “Through this project, we encourage people to donate one meal or the amount they would spend on one meal, to the needy, through the Foundation. When they skip a meal, they would realise the hunger that the less-privileged feel on a daily basis. This, we believe, would raise awareness. We are aiming to feed at least  5,000 people with these donations.”

Also read: How one woman’s community fridge in Chennai is ensuring the needy don’t go to bed hungry