Calling themselves a food rescue organisation, the Akshaya Aahara Foundation (AAF) based in Mysuru stops wastage of huge volumes of food by taking it to those who cannot even afford a decent meal a day.
AAF picks up freshly prepared food from regulated food businesses without any cost to the food donor, such as hotels, social functions, cafeterias and sometimes even from households and distribute it among the hungry.
AAF founder H.R. Rajendra, who is also a central government employee, told Deccan Chronicle that he was returning home after attending a wedding six years ago when he saw large quantities of surplus food being thrown away into dustbins by the caterer. At another place, he saw street urchins eating leftover food from garbage bins. Deeply hurt and moved by these two scenes, he decided to collect surplus food and distribute it among the poor and the needy to alleviate their hunger. He and his wife M.K. Swetha then started visiting and identifying slums, government hospitals and pockets where the poor live and made a list. Later, they visited community halls and wedding halls that host functions and also big restaurants. When they requested these establishments to hand them over surplus food, it struck a chord.
Mr Rajendra said that his team works on a simple concept with a simple solution to connect waste and want, to balance surplus and deficit and to help many achieve freedom from hunger. “The leftover food from different sources becomes a boon for the homeless and the hungry, maybe on the same street that hosts the function. Our primary motto has been to bridge this gap and we haven’t stopped or had second thoughts since we started in November 13, 2015 and we have been at it on it on a daily basis,” he said.
On how the NGO was set up, Mr Rajendra said that he put in his personal savings of years to build the foundation of the organisation. “While some donate money and some others contribute towards the fuel cost of our two vehicles, we have realised that it is important to raise funds to be active. We need an average of Rs 60,000 per month to ensure that we do this effectively,” he said and requested people to contribute towards the cause.
As the word of their good deed has spread, AAF now receives 50 to 60 calls a day, while the numbers see a spike during marriage seasons. “On many occasions, we have distributed almost 10,000 meals a single day,” said Ms Shweta, who handles logistics during weekdays when Mr Rajendra is at work. Their children too help during holidays.
Three years since inception, AAF has identified 77 slums, 52 orphanages, several bus-stands and colonies where food is an urgent need on a daily basis for many. At present, AAF feeds more than 2,000 people a day.
“The food that we serve the needy might be surplus for the donors, but we never compromise on the quality as we ensure that each meal is fresh and safe,” said Ms Swetha. She explained that food collection calls are attended to any time between 6 am and 11.30 pm on all days of the week. The group estimates that their noble act saves up to Rs 45 lakh per annum that is spent on food by the poor.
“The smile on the faces of the needy after a meal that they never expected is the greatest reward I can ever ask for. We are now planning to begin a new initiative, ‘Seeing Hands and Caring Minds’, which will provide lunch every day, free of cost, to the differently abled and elderly, who live alone,” he said.
The awards and recognition have been pouring in. Akshaya Ahara is a recipient of Sir M. Visvesvaraya Global Leadership Award, Rotary Mysore East Award and many more.
Found surplus food anywhere in and around Mysuru? Reach team AAF at 9148987375 or email@example.com...