Waste not, want not

Hunger blights the lives of millions of people globally, yet food waste is rampant. We meet the volunteer army determined to even the balance

In 2014, six people took to the streets of Delhi with a mission to feed the homeless. Armed with leftover food from local restaurants, they distributed meals to some of the capital’s poorest residents, sleeping rough in its streets.

From that small group, a nationwide volunteer movement known as the Robin Hood Army (RHA) emerged. Today it is powered by a network of 3,500 ‘Robins’, whose green-shirted presence is a common sight on the streets of India and Pakistan – and more recently, Malaysia and Indonesia, too. Their aim is to tackle the twin scourges of waste and hunger.

Worldwide, almost 800 million people do not have enough to eat. The travesty is that some 82 per cent of those suffering live in countries with food surpluses, not food shortages.

RHA is modelled on a nonprofit that its founders Neel Ghose and Anand Sinha discovered in Lisbon, Portugal, called Refood. Its approach was to redistribute leftover food from restaurants that would otherwise go to waste.

“There are millions of hungry people for whom getting two square meals a day is a struggle, so we will not stop”“The model seemed ideal for a place like India where the need, unfortunately, is much more,” says Ghose.

India is home to a quarter of all undernourished people globally, according to the UN’s World Food Programme, and more than half of all children are stunted from poor nutrition before they reach their second birthday.

RHA collects excess food from restaurants or local weddings, and distributes it to orphanages, homeless families and public hospitals, where there are clusters of people in need. To date, it has fed more than half a million people in some 25 cities. “This might seem impressive, but there are still millions of hungry people for whom getting two square meals a day is a struggle,” says Ghose, “so we will not stop.”

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Photo credit: Robin Hood Army