Food ATM’s –Feeding the poor

This wonderful news comes to us from Chennai, India.

It has been two years since the community fridge made its appearance on a footpath in Chennai and since then it has warmed the hearts and filled the stomachs of diverse people starting from the homeless, auto wallahs, domestic help, beggars and more.

The Food ATM as it is called has traveled through all the major cities of the country like Kolkata, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar and also up north in Gurgaon. A few NGOs have also joined this initiative and locals have been roped in to act as partners in this noble endeavor.

In Bangaluru there are over 15 public fridges and the number is set to grow because earlier in the month South Western Railway installed a public fridge at the Bengaluru City railway station.

These public fridges are fondly called Food ATM’s and they work by being installed by the roadside or a footpath where the excess leftovers and food are kept for collection by anyone in need who walks.

Kolkata’s first Food ATM happened in 2017 when Asif Ahmed installed them near his restaurants at Park Circus Road and EM Bypass. He was assisted by his friends Prakash Nahata, Rahul Agarwal and Nirmal Bajaj. There are a total of 4 machines now, they feed over 100 people every day with the count going up during the wedding season as well as the festive season. Ahmed also advises his customers not to waste any food and encourages them to pack leftover food so that it could be donated to the Food ATM.

Ahmed needed an outlay of 70,000 to 80,000 rupees and his monthly operation cost is about 10,000. But if compared to the immense good that he and others like him are doing, the cost pales in comparison.

The earliest reported community fridge in the country came up in Chennai on August 2017. A new refrigerator had popped up overnight on the pavement near the Besant Nagar tennis club. The fridge had a sticker on it saying “AyyaMittuUnn”( Eat after you serve). Belonging to none, this idea by Chennai based orthodontist was meant for all.

This has become a very simple yet far-reaching service that has the ability to reach out to a large number of people, and the instances of Food ATM’s are growing. In Bengaluru, the first public fridge was set up in 2018 and had a capacity to feed around 100 people. The Rotary Bangalore Brigades have been instrumental in opening eight public fridges. In another area of Bangalore, residents raised 1 lakh rupees to install a public fridge. Dehradun also saw residents coming together to install a public fridge.

Even though the concept of a public fridge is a bit baffling, the concept works surprisingly well. It is for us to take the good lessons from endeavors like this and try to spread it in our own little ways.

Image source: The Logical Indian

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