THE IMPACT OF FOOD BANKS IN INDIA
India currently ranks 107 out of 116 on the Global Hunger Index, implying that roughly 14% of the population is undernourished. According to a 2021 report by the Global FoodBanking Network, hundreds of food banks in India serve over 6 million people across 100 cities. However, this is still a small fraction of the country’s estimated 190 million undernourished people.
In the last year, India has seen a 250% increase in the volume of food distributed through food banks. Donation banks are essential lifelines for millions of people living in poverty in India. These organizations provide food and clothing to those who cannot afford to buy them, helping to reduce hunger and malnutrition and improve the lives of the poor.
The Potential for Food and Clothing Banks to Reduce Poverty
Food donation banks have the potential to play a significant role in reducing poverty in India. By providing free food and clothing to the poor, these organizations can help to reduce hunger, improve health outcomes and increase educational attainment.
Here are a few examples of food and clothes banks in India that are making a difference:
- Feeding India: Feeding India, operated by Zomato, India’s leading food delivery start-up, is one of the largest food banks in India. By 2019, Feeding India distributed over 1.1 million meals a month, catering to over 82 cities. The number of Hunger Heroes (volunteers at Feeding India) has grown over the past three years from 8,500 to 21,500.
- India FoodBanking Network: The India FoodBanking Network partners with over 300 NGOs and more than 25 corporations, through which they serve over a million meals every year in 10 locations. This multi-stakeholder partnership ensures a large-scale impact on hunger and malnutrition.
- No Food Waste (NFW): NFW follows a unique process for identifying specific community needs, which involves working with municipality leaders early on to focus on the donation of food products and logistics.
- Clothes Bank of India: The Clothing Banks in India collect and distribute used clothes to people in need. Organizations, such as Society for Bright Future (SFBF) and SERUDS India, are leading the way and plan to have cloth banks all over India by 2026
Food loss and waste are major social challenges in India. Although India has recently become a net food exporter, despite the expansions in agricultural production, 40% of all the food produced remains wasted in India. Government agencies have developed strategies to divert food waste to mitigate food access issues.
Food banks in India face several challenges, including:
- Limited Funding: Food and clothes banks rely on donations from individuals and businesses. However, funding can be limited, especially during times of economic hardship.
- Lack of Quality Food Storage Systems: The food waste issue can be resolved by adopting strategies for food storage that have been implemented successfully in other countries. For example, China has built advanced storage facilities filled with modern equipment.
- Inadequate Food Distribution Systems: Distributing food and clothes to many people across a vast country can be logistically challenging. Food distribution through India’s public distribution mechanisms (PDS) is also a reason for growing food insecurity in the country — people who are the right candidates for receiving the subsidy are excluded due to the ineffective implementation and distribution of their below-poverty line (BPL) status, the criterion used for obtaining the donation.
Despite the challenges, food banks have the potential to play a significant role in reducing poverty in India and improving the lives of millions. However, they face many challenges, including limited funding, lack of awareness and logistical challenges.
It is essential to support food and clothes banks in India by donating food, clothing and money. Raising awareness of these organizations and advocating for policies supporting their work could significantly impact them. By working together, India could create a future where its citizens can access the food and clothing they need to thrive.
– Brijesh Goel