Aditi Panda

No party or event is complete without food. It’s a common sight to see lots of leftover food lying in dumps or thrown away in dustbins after every function or feast the next day. It’s a distressing sight but a vicious reality that the civil society cannot refute. ‘Robin Hood Army’ is the perfect answer to this massive concern and a possible way out to fight this problem.

Robin Hood Army is a group of passionate volunteers, who strongly believe in ‘Feeding the Hungry’ and have fed more than 4000 people in Bhubaneswar since May, this year.

Basically, it is an international volunteer-based organization initiated with a purpose to feed the deprived by gathering the left-over food from wedding halls, functions and restaurants.

The simple procedure followed is by organizing food drives on Sundays and sporadic night drives if there are volunteers available and people call up to distribute the excess food.

The members are all ‘Robins’ irrespective of age, sex and profession. Once an individual becomes a part of the Robin Hood Army drive he/she becomes a robin and is at par with anybody else in the group. The only criterion to be a part of this humanitarian group is the urge to feed the hungry and prevent wastage of leftover food.

A Robin and one of the initiators shared the story of how RHA started in Bhubaneswar. He said, “The first Robin Hood Army drive was conducted in May, 2018 with a simple vision to eradicate hunger and make sure that no food is wasted. Actually, hunger is the result of not having access to food, rather than the lack of food. A major chunk of the food produced in the country, gets wasted due to cooking “excess food”.

Excess food is cooked in restaurants or at events where food is cooked in bulk quantities like weddings, meetings, functions, college caterers etc. RHA partners with these entities and gets them involved after apprising them about our vision. Meanwhile “target areas” are zeroed in slums or bastis and we are also contemplating to include orphanages and old age homes.

In India the rate of children succumbing to malnutrition is fairly high but even then, people do not think twice before throwing food. Amidst this state of affairs, Robin Hood Army has come up with this unique thought to feed the hungry. The pre-planning and coordination of every drive is systematically done through a WhatsApp group with volunteers doing everything from deciding the venue to distribution of food.

Food is collected from local restaurants, which give their surplus food and sometimes, also give fresh cooked meals. Many people call the RHA over telephone and donate both left-over as well as freshly cooked food.

“The happiness is writ large on the faces of the people after seeing the food served to them properly. Moreover, one of us tastes the food before actually distributing as we do not want people to fall sick after eating it”, shared a Robin.

“Every drive is a challenge as well as a lesson learnt, at the same time as there are many facts that have to be planned to make a drive successful. The volunteers are all engaged and we have to manage exigencies as well.

People call at nights but then many of us are students and do not have a vehicle to pick up food while many are girls who cannot come out at odd hours. We also have many aunties who are very enthusiastic but they cannot conduct night drives. RHA, Bhubaneswar is learning and will soon find a suitable solution for every challenge,” chipped in another Robin who has been a constant at almost all food drives.

Talking about the challenges a robin confided, “Every volunteer-based movement, struggles initially to get a grip in its initial days. A little shake-up and pep up talk will boost attendance and help us serve better. Along with food distribution we also talk to the women and girls and discuss their problems. We also celebrate festivals and days with them like friendship day and rakhi recently, to build a rapport with them”.

“Since many of us know art, dancing, music and martial arts we are slowly planning to adopt a few children from the areas we visit regularly and teach the children for free. It is also one kind of service”, said another energetic robin.

Hence do not panic if you see extra food, but call up a Robin immediately. You can also distribute dry food like biscuits, cakes, chivda plus join as a volunteer. You can contact RHA on- 8527485879, 8850390959,8280197279.

(Aditi is a freelance writer and pursues interest in the area of social issues)