Ghaus Siwani/New Delhi
Every day on my way to the office from my house in southeast Delhi’s Kanchan Kunj area I often noticed some people loading food packets in a car.
The packets are carried from a house that had a big board with 'Project Ehsaas' written on it. Another board – a smaller one – had 'Community Kitchen' written on it and hung on the other corner. One day, finally, I stopped by to check on Project Ehsaas.
A young man loading the food packets told me that it was meant for the people who couldn’t afford food; the van would go to designated areas to distribute food packets to hungry children, men, and women.
It was a daily routine of volunteers associated with the project.
I was led inside the office where I met Feroze Khan, in charge of the project. The office looked more like a spacious kitchen with a cooking machine than a typical office.
Volunteers distributing food packets in a Delhi locality
Showing me around, Feroze Khan said that that huge stainless steel machine can cook soup simultaneously for four persons. I was happy to see that the food was cooked under hygienic conditions. The place was spic and span.
Feroze Khan said that each day the machine cooks about 800 meals. They cook vegetable pulao.
Why do they make only vegetarian food? Feroze Khan told me that vegetarian food is being
given since these packets are distributed to people of different religions and some of them may not be meat eaters and could end up eating it inadvertently.
“We aim to feed the hungry and we want everyone to benefit from us,” he said.
Food is cooked inside the machine in a clean environment
Feroze Khan said that food packets are usually distributed in slum areas. He says there are a lot of children whose parents go out to work at construction sites, etc. and children sit hungry all day. Food packets are the only source of nutrition for such children.
While we were talking, a group of children wearing not-so-clean clothes and carrying school books in their hands came over. Each one of them was handed over packets of food.
As they left with smiles on their faces, I knew the real meaning of the tagline of this NGO 'Feeding with a Smile.
Community Kitchen's Delicious food
Feroze Khan said that normally food is distributed in the Okhla area of southeast Delhi. However, each Sunday the van also goes to the areas around the super specialty All India Institute of medical sciences (AIIMS) in South Delhi. There are a lot of people coming with their relatives who are admitted to the AIIMS and are served food packets.
Similarly, food is distributed in front of the adjoining Safarjung Hospital and also Lok Naik Jayaprakash Narayan Hospital.
Feroze Khan said the funds for their NGO come from the common people. Anyone can contribute money online and offline.
Project Ehsaas also runs community kitchens in the cities of Kolkata and Delhi. These kitchens were launched after realising that a large community of migrant labourers and slum dwellers need them.
The project was launched in the wake of the Covid-induced lockdown and the resulting loss of jobs.
Kitchens have also been set up in Jogeshwari in Mumbai and Lucknow in UP. Under this campaign, lakhs of food packets have been distributed so far.
Feroze Khan said efforts are on to establish more such kitchens. Project Ehsaas also chips in at the time of flood or natural disaster. In such a situation, the volunteers of the NGO reach the affected place and set up the kitchen to feed affected people.
Reaching out to Assam flood victims
The Global Hunger Index was released on 14 October 2022. According to it, out of 121 countries in the world, India is ranked 107, and the level of hunger and malnutrition in the country is now at "severe" levels.
India's ranking on this index has been deteriorating since 2020 - from 94 in 2020 to 101 in 2021. According to the report, undernourished children are losing weight and stunting.
The Government has dismissed the report as it’s based on outdated data and said a country that has been running the largest free ration scheme, mid-day meals, and giving food to the rest of the world cannot have food scarcity.
Volunteers serving food to the needy in Delhi
However, it’s an acknowledged fact that stunting and malnourishment are rampant in India. About 16.3 percent of Indians are undernourished despite India being the largest producer of milk, pulses, and bananas and the second largest producer of wheat, rice, and vegetables in the world.
It is also among the top producers of livestock products like fish and poultry. Since Corona, the government is giving free rations to the poor people, but despite this, hunger has not been eradicated from our country.