The 194.5 million hungry people in India and 1.3 million children starving to death annually, pushed ANKIT KAWATRA to quit his cushy corporate job and start the Feeding India organisation. He talks to SANGEETA YADAV
Ankit Kawatra (25) left his corporate job for a mission to end national hunger in his lifetime. This founder of Feeding India has fed over 1.35 million people so far in 25 cities. His also wants to educate people to not waste food. He aims at providing 100 million meals by 2020 and getting 10,000 volunteers from across India for this job.
Born and brought up in Delhi and a BBS graduate from Delhi University’s Keshav Mahavidyalaya, Kawatra’s life changing moment came two years back when he attended a celebrity wedding. He was shocked to see quintals of food being tossed into the dustbin.
“There were 35 types of cuisines being served. I was shocked to see the waiter throwing away all the extra food. With that amount, one could have easily fed 10,000 hungry people. Would I spend my life doing nothing about this? Or should I leave the rat race to have a bigger impact on people. Mahatma Gandhi tried to solve the hunger problem. Almost 70 years later, we still live in the hunger era. That night I decided to quit my job as a business analyst and work to tackle the hunger problem,” says Kawatra.
India has the highest number of undernourished people in the world. Around 1.3 million children die every year due to hunger. There are more than 795 million hungry people in the world out of which 194.5 million are from India. Forty per cent of all food in this world is wasted at weddings, restaurants, events, hotels, college canteens, etc.
Initially, Kawatra faced a lot of discouragement and criticism when he quit his corporate job to start the anti-hunger venture.
“Everybody thought I was crazy to give up a well-settled life for a social cause. People told me that these things should be left for NGOs and the Government. It was a struggle to find any support,” he says.
First, it was a tough task to convince the caterers to give us all the extra food.
“At a wedding, these caterers were just tossing all the leftover food in the bin. When I asked them to give it to me to feed others, one of them said: ‘These are Rs500 per plate. If you want this food, buy it from us.’ It is difficult to change the mindset of money-minded people willing to throw the extra food in the bin but not help us feed the hungry,” he tells you.
But slowly, there was a change. Those who had earlier refused to give away the extra food, started collaborating with Feeding India. Many programmes like Be A Hunger Hero and Choti Si Asha (where celebrity chefs like Chef Manjit Gill and Chef Ritu Dalmia cook dishes for the shelter homes) were started to spread awareness.
The biggest challenge Kawatra faced was feeding over 500 homeless people in the middle of a winter night.
“We took up the task of feeding these people for over a week. The core aspect was to see to it that these people did not become dependent on us entirely for food. We made them aware that we would only be able to give them food for a week after which they would have to fend for themselves,” he says.
Kawatra’s biggest achievement has been to represent India at the UN Young Leader for Sustainable Development Goals.
“I got selected from 18,000 nominees across 186 countries to represent India at UN General Assembly. The task was to advocate youth participations back home and assure that organisations like Feeding India are set-up across the country. The youth plays a bigger role in bringing a change in the society,” Kawatra tells you.
At present, this young gun is working on a sustainable model for zero hunger.
“There is a need for a sustained model and there have to be people who get remunerated for this kind of work. I’m working on a model which is 80 per cent finished and will go live by next year,” he tells you.
(The article also got published in Sunday Pioneer – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/hunger-to-serve.html)