Story of Doctor- who set up Fridge to keep food fresh for ‘Homeless people’

In the last two decades, the country has seen huge growth with a population of over 1.3 billion. Food gain production has doubled up almost two times. There is plenty of food in India yet the poor are starving. Despite having so many resources to boost industrial and economic growth, the nation still has nothing to show for people starving.

The survey says 190.7 million people go hungry every day, 3,000 children die every day from poor diet-related illness in India. It is no surprise that “Rich are getting richer and Poor are getting poorer”. It is difficult to explain the conditions of poor people who can’t afford to buy food and thereby they fail to meet the caloric demands of the body.

Credits: LifeBeyondNumbers

In a bid to fight the hunger, this Chennai based ‘community fridge’ is ending hunger. Almost any person can come and open the gate and pick whatever they want, without having to ask or beg for food.

Ayyamittu Unn was set up on August 20, 2017 an initiative that aims to beat hunger by feeding the underprivileged ones. It is a community fridge which is placed near the tennis court at Besant Nagar.

“I have come across many people starving for food. It is not because of lack of food. Most of the time, we have excess food that is dumped. This is because we don’t know what to do with it. We started this community fridge to serve the needy,” said Dr Issa Fathima Jasmine, director of The Public Foundation, reports Hindu.

Apart from food, the charity foundation also helps people by providing them with books, toys and other important items that are given in donation. “I always feel bad when I throw away excess food.

I had a doubt if people would accept the food if I give to them directly, so I throw it. This community fridge is a great initiative. For the last one week, I have been donating excess food,” said Ganapathy who is a resident of the area.

The community fridge is open all days from 7 am to 9 pm and serves anyone who is in need.

Speaking to Mums and Stories, Issa Fathima Jasmine shares, “It all began when I would give excess food to a lady near my house as I didn’t like food going waste. There would be many occasions when I would have excess food, and I wouldn’t even know whom to share it with except this woman.

Unfortunately, she died, and along with the bond of being disconnected with the person, I had the problem again of throwing food to garbage just because it was in a little excess quantity at home. Soon it got me thinking of my wishlist if there was a space where the food can be kept, and someone in need could utilise it the same day.

Then the idea of the refrigerator came along, and it was time to work with the corporation or the malls. I was doing rounds across different spaces and talking to various people but without any luck.

Most people just couldn’t understand what I was trying to convey through a public refrigerator. They kept asking questions like, “Who will ensure what happens to the food? Will it remain good or go stale? Who will pay for the electricity? What will we benefit from this?”

“Large stores had concerns if their business would be affected by keeping such refrigerators outside their stores. I didn’t have all the answers, or perhaps I was not good at convincing everyone.

Then I had to do a recheck on going and getting things done. So as a primary step, we registered the organisation as it is a group and community effort rather than one individual taking this concept ahead,” she stresses.

“Then it was time to visit the corporations again and finally, they came around on agreeing for the initiative. So now it is Public Foundation which runs this concept with the help of volunteers, project coordinators, people who contribute food, shoes, clothes and even people who utilise it without any embarrassment.

Now there were more conditions from the end of the corporations and the agencies. We had to be careful that the refrigerator was placed where there is no risk of an electric malfunction.

It couldn’t be at a place where roads were being dug, and so many issues came up, which we weren’t aware of when conceptualising the project. As the refrigerator is generally placed on the main road, issues come up and need to be addressed,” she said.

It couldn’t be at a place where roads were being dug, and so many issues came up, which we weren’t aware of when conceptualising the project. As the refrigerator is generally placed on the main road, issues come up and need to be addressed,” she said.

Issa Fathima continues, “It is incredible how most of us living in urban landscapes assume people who are in the lower ring of the ladder and the society have access to food, or even nutritious food all the time.

We have had bus drivers, auto drivers, bus conductors, taxi drivers, beggars, destitute walking and picking food and other things and continuing in their lives.

Only when I started the project, I realised how many drivers and others who can’t afford good nutritious food make do with just rice and gulp it with water. So now, we ask people to sometimes leave even raw vegetables (in good condition only) in the refrigerators.”

Issa Fathima Jasmine while talking to Mums and Stories, expresses her various interests, “The project is an important part of my life, but it is really important,” she adds.

She says, “I am also an orthodontist, a mum to a 15-year old who encouraged me to get this done. I also run a boutique and pursue other interests. It is strange that many were advising me that I am too young to begin a charity. So when is it a good time to start something noble? I used to organise cloth recycling drives even in college, over a decade ago.

When asked Issa Fathima Jasmine if there have been incidents which have made her feel more connected to this initiative, she says, “Many times I have cried from a distance, watching someone expressing a huge smile just by seeing food in good condition, rather than sorting it from the garbage bin. So many clothes now come to the shelves along with stationary and even toys too. I am very sure those who pick it up have a lot of cherished value in their lives.”

The public foundation is now looking for project coordinators, volunteers and others who can assist them in setting up more refrigerators in areas in Bengaluru or somewhere else.