Vatika City resident gives G-towners food for thought
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Vatika City resident gives G-towners food for thought

Anuj Mehta, along with wife Sahifa, started the Food Bank initiative on a whim last year, and they have been feeding hungry little tummies across Gurgaon slums ever since.

Vatika City resident gives G-towners food for thought

Anuj Mehta is at the Vatika City gate on the bustling Sohna Road, sharp at 7.30 am every day — all set to collect the day’s quota of meals from dedicated contributors. By 10 am, he’s done with his round of collection from various Gurgaon localities, and it’s now time to distribute fresh, wholesome, home-made food – usually alu-poori or sandwiches or stuffed parathas or veg pulao — neatly packed in labeled bags to hungry little stomachs across G-town slums.

One day its 173 happy meals for kids in a Nathupur slum, the next, may be 67 happy tummies at the Sector 56 shanties looking out eagerly for the signature red “khaane-wali gaadi.”  

“We like to cover as many Gurgaon slums as we can so that kids can start the day with a smile on their faces,” says Anuj, who started the Food Bank initiative on a whim last year, along with wife Sahifa. Every Sunday the Mehtas were in the habit of distributing 25 packets of fresh food to the needy, “the idea just spread and soon friends and neighbours joined in. The dots somehow got connected and a chain was formed. A whole new world of giving emerged and as the number of food packets grew, distribution became a daily affair, and today we even have corporates like Dell International Services contributing to the pool,” smiles Anuj. MBAs by profession, Anuj and Sahifa, call Food Bank a strictly “no profit, no money initiative” highlighting the raison d’etre of the whole endeavor – “fighting hunger, giving hope” by pledging a hygienic, tasteful meal for the poor.

“We provide all the logistical support free of cost, food pick-up is at your doorstep seven days a week in the morning – all you have to do is make one extra meal and we’ll make sure it reaches a hungry child,” says Anuj. “Just send us a Whatsapp message a day before and please adhere to the time table is all we ask.” In fact, “we diligently travel all the way to Sector 30 every day to collect one meal promised to us by a volunteer,” he tells City Spidey, “such is our dedication to the cause.”

Talking of the overwhelming response from G-towners, Anuj cites the example of Prabha aunty from Vipul Green and Deepa from Orchid Petals, who go out of their way to meet deadlines and contribute their daily quota of promised meals come rain or shine. And with all the publicity through word of mouth and social media, Anuj plans to “expand further in future to a book bank, clothes bank, toys bank and mid-day meals too by tapping into Corporate Social Responsibility to take care of a constant inventory.”

As for quality control, “volunteers are requested to pack freshly cooked vegetarian meals in neat boxes to make distribution easier,” he outlines, even as he rues the fact that “sometimes collections are not enough to meet the ever rising demand.” So during festivals and birthdays as many as 600 food packets are added to the kitty, “but we have seen lean patches when just 50 happy meals are difficult to come by. This gap needs to be addressed so that a daily minimum is maintained throughout.”

Society needs to take charge and inculcate the concept of Family Social Responsibility, Anuj feels, to counter some of the ill-effects of the urban jungle that Gurgaon has become. “On the brighter side, G-town is full of wonderful people eager to make a difference. We just need to reach out to them,” he adds.

“Right now, several families across Sector 31, 32, 32A, 38, 39, 40, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55 and 56 give us food boxes that are personally passed on by Food Bank representatives to hungry people spread across the city at traffic signals, bus stops, hospitals, government schools and neighbouring villages,” chips in Sahifa.  

Among the contributors is 16-year-old Tanil Singh from Vatika City, who recently donated home-made poori-alu packets to celebrate the birthday of younger brother Arjun. A student of  Manav Rachna International, Tanil quotes Churchill to explain the rationale behind joining Food Bank: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Just about sums up the collective feelings of all the Food Bankers, leaving the rest of us with plenty of food for thought!