news Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - 05:30
Two of the northern districts of Kerala set an example in addressing the immediate hunger of the homeless and the poor by providing free food.   Malappuram and Kozhikode have put in place schemes which make free food available through a mix of charitable measures and “food-pooling”.   In January 2015, the Malappuram Municipality developed two new projects with the vision to make the district “hunger-free”, and implemented them in subsequent months.   The first one, called ‘Food on the Wall’ was launched in February in collaboration with an association of restaurants and hotels in the district.   People who wished to donate food could contribute money to the restaurants, which would provide breakfast and lunch to the hungry. All people needed to do, was ask for a token, which had already been paid for by other customers.   In May, the municipality implemented a scheme called Akshayapathram, which worked on the same principle as car-pooling. The idea was to encourage people to contribute fresh food and leftovers and deposit it in government-owned refrigerators placed in certain locations.     The municipality has currently placed four refrigerators along with microwave ovens so that the food could be heated before consumption. Two have been placed in the district government hospital in so that those who cannot afford to buy food when they or their relatives have been hospitalized, need not go hungry.   Municipal Chairman K.P. Mustafa says that response has been “great”.  He says that many people donate food, especially the leftovers from when they organize functions. “Once this scheme was implemented people started donating left over food and to our surprise, no food is being wasted or left over for the next day. That means many people are benefiting,” he said.   He also says that the municipality has taken steps to ensure that cleanliness and hygiene is maintained. One person has been appointed for each refrigerator to record the food donor's details to ensure quality and safety. The staff, available between 7 am to 10 pm, also cleans the fridges every day, Mustafa said.   “I have seen people in Mumbai eat from waste baskets and sleep in the street. They struggle for even one meal, while many of us waste food. So these kinds of projects should be implemented in all cities of India,” Mustafa says, adding that an NGO has contacted the municipality to implement ‘Akshayapathram’ in Mumbai.   The Kozhikode district administration launched the program ‘Operation Sulaimani’ in the district on June 14.     Here however, the model is slightly different. Unlike Malappuram where the public makes financial donations, in Kozhikode, it is the restaurants who bear the expenses of free meals.   The district administration distributes food coupons through village and taluk offices, selected hotels and even bus stands. These coupons then act as tokens in 25 hotels where meals are freely given.   While there might be criticism of the concept of free food, Mustafa has an answer to that. “This is not our generosity it’s is our duty. Everybody has the right to have food equally. We can’t curb anyone’s rights,” Mustafa says.   Also Read    Hacked with swords, but this man from Kerala won't give up his fight against drugs    Sorcery and Murder: Dark spell of black magic in Karnataka's Chamarajnagar