Procheshta food bank

When the wealthy majority is wasting food, a young group has taken a food bank initiative —Prochestha Food Bank. They collect surplus food from any event and distribute it among those who are starving. Habiba Khanam writes about the initiative.

 

Food waste is one of the core problems the world is facing at present, a rather undesired and avoidable problem of course. In the world, starting from food production to food processing, and after food consumption, at every stage of food supply chain, food loss or waste amounts to one-third of all food produced. In Bangladesh, where a significant number of people go to sleep on an empty stomach, starved, surprisingly, a total 13-15 per cent of the food is wasted. According to a study made by the United Nations, in the world one in every nine people is starving, and in Bangladesh one in every four people is starving at the moment. It is probably a food for thought that, how in a country like ours, where people struggle to find food, we could waste such a huge amount which, if distributed properly, could provide some more people with something to eat.

_MG_0004With that thought in mind, an exceptional initiative of distributing leftover food items has been taken by a non-profit organisation called Prochesta Foundation. The organisation initiated a project called Food Banking. A group of young people, mostly students, are volunteering unconditionally and working here to make sure that no food goes wasted. With a noble cause in mind, the project Food Banking started its journey in 2016.

What this project does is that they collect leftover food items from any wedding, birthday parties, events, basically celebrations or parties of any kind, and then redistribute the food to street children and poor people in Dhaka. The project currently consists of 50 volunteers, they have a Facebook page and the volunteers have promoted the project personally as well. They have provided people with an official phone number that is 01842002023, they take calls 24/7. Whenever they get a call from people who are willing to donate their leftover food, be it at daylight or late in the night, the volunteers will be present at the venue in no time and collect the food before it rots. The donors only have to inform them about the address and amount of food that is left.

Reaching the venue, they evenly pack the food, efficiently within the shortest time possible, and then they go out immediately to give the food to the people living on the streets, railway stations, slums etc.They are getting calls almost everyday, at times more than one place in the same time. Although there remains a shortage of volunteers for conducting such a complicated task, especially at nights, they are running the project nonetheless, without any break. Such dedication to feed the poor is heart-touching, the volunteers are doing exactly what they can do within their capacity and limits. Probably the dedication of these young people is the main fuel for the project to be a huge success so far. Since its inauguration, in this one and a half years of journey, it has gotten calls from 153 weddings and served 55000 people.

_MG_5836Project Food Banking does not have any specific area where they work. They take calls from anywhere inside Dhaka. But the service could not extended outside Dhaka yet! Funding has always been one of the challenges of running this project. Since the organization does not collect donation for this project, it only collects food, sometimes it becomes difficult to manage the cost of transportation. Sometimes, volunteers get interrogated by the police when they are working at midnight. Yet, the spirit of these people could not be suppressed. They have been working for over a year now and they wish to continue to do so.

DSC_0702The content smile of people, the sparkling eyes on receiving a packet of food cannot be compared with anything, the sense of satisfaction that the volunteers get from their work, cannot be put into words either, as some of the volunteers have shared. It so happened at times that the volunteers had to spend the night at mosques, some got mugged as most of the events end late at night. The volunteers have no other choice than to collect and distribute the food late at night, maybe if the police helped the volunteers instead of harassing them, it would be much easier. The situation has changed compared to the initial days, some of the police officials are aware of the programme now.

Despite all odds, serving so many people has definitely given them the boost to keep working in this project. Just one call, and your leftover food will be a starved person’s desired meal! Save the number and contact them whenever you feel that your call may feed many deprived people. Wasting Food is a matter of concern, such an initiative is much needed in our city and everyone should contribute.

 

Habiba Khanam is a student of University of Dhaka.

 

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