Troubled to see the amount of food being wasted in the big, fat Indian weddings, management graduate Ankit Kawatra came up with the solution to redistribute it among the hungry.
Kawatra, who left his corporate job to start ‘Feeding India’, is among the 17 people selected for the inaugural class of UN Young Leaders for Sustainable Development Goals for his initiative.
The young leaders were selected by the UN from more than 18,000 nominations from 186 countries.
“I worked in a global business advisory firm for two years. One day, I went to a celebrity wedding where there were around 10,000 people invited for the wedding and more than 35 cuisines were laid for them.
“I decided to stay back to see what happened with the food. To my shock and despair, heaps of leftover food was thrown straight into the bin which could have fed 5000 people just that single night,” Kawatra told PTI.
This led him to establish his own NGO Feeding India, which now claims to have fed 1 million meals with a network of 2,000 volunteers across 28 cities of India.
They work towards solving hunger and malnutrition in India by redistributing excess food from weddings, corporate, canteens, banquets and households.
As part of the initiative, Kawatra has undertaken several projects in the past two years. These include ‘The Magic Truck’, a 24X7 refrigerated vehicle moving around the city collecting and donating excess food.
“We have adopted many donation centers, self-run schools and shelter homes for children, elderly and specially-abled. We provide them with nutritious and well balanced meals,” Kawatra said.
Other efforts include the ‘Hyperlocal donation drives’ which encourage the masses to come out and participate. He has roped in famous faces in the food community to spread awareness about the initiative.
“We have encouraged people from the food community to come together and spread awareness about this initiative. Celebrity chefs (Chef Ritu Dalmia, Chef Manjit Gill), TV Hosts (Mayur Sharma, highway on my plate), food bloggers, restaurateurs are among those who have talked about the initiative.”
Kawatra aims to advocate for the UN goals (SDG) in the most accessible and relatable ways to young people across different contexts.
He wants to study how other countries have been tackling this issue and also the role played by governments, private businesses, social activists and civic bodies thus helping him in the utilisation of resources.
“I will try to act as the voice of the youth in India on the global stage representing the country and getting support from international agencies,” he said.
Kawatra would be working on a plan to draft a plan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SGD) which would be presented to UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon and other senior level officers at the UN.
“During my sessions at the UN headquarters and 71st General assembly, I will help draft a plan to achieve the SDGs in the coming year. This will be presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other senior levels at United Nations.
“Post its approval, I will start working towards Hunger and Malnutrition in new innovative ways, advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals, promote innovative ways of engaging young people in the advocacy and realization of the Goals, and contribute to a brain trust of young leaders supporting the UN and partners,” Kawatra said.
* The Young Leaders Initiative is powered by the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and is part of the Global Youth Partnership for Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015 and housed in the Envoy’s Office.