True to the principle of Gandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, the Ann Bandhu Foundation has launched a ‘Food for All’ programme for the needy three months back. They serve wholesome lunch to the underpriveleged at an unbelievable rate of Rs 6 a plate.
The project ‘Ann Bandhu’ is the brainchild of J. P. Agarwal, owner of Agarwal and Agarwal Company, and run by ten to twelve business families of Kolkata.
The programme aims to feed the needy a sumptuous lunch without burning a hole in their pockets. It caters mostly to the daily labourers such as rickshaw pullers, hawkers, peddlers and others who go hungry throughout the day and cannot afford a basic meal.
Food is cooked daily at the Palit Street centre and is distributed to all the channels. The cleanliness and hygiene of the kitchen and serving stalls is worth a mention. The kitchen is specially equipped with huge shining utensils, automated chopping machines and large weighing scales.
The food is served through three outlets: one opposite Ramkrishna Mission Hospital on Sarat Bose Road, another adjacent to Maddox Square at 4-A Palit Street, and the third at 96 Beltala Road, adjacent to Beltala Girls School. There are six more self-distributing channels who procure food from the Foundation at Rs 10 per plate. These include two schools who serve it as the mid-day meal to their students, three manufacturers and a non-governmental organization. A total of 1,200 to 1,500 plates per day are served six days a week, excluding Sundays.
The food is served between 11 am and 2 pm. A fixed menu is maintained for the programme, comprising of 300 grams of cooked rice, 120 grams of soupy pulse and 150 grams of potato-vegetable curry on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On alternate days, i.e., Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, 400 grams of vegetable khichdi is served. The quantity of food prepared is kept fixed to minimise wastage. The food served is hot and tastes similar to homemade food. “We like the food as it is far better than the food served by roadside eateries,” conveyed a rickshaw-puller.
The food is served in white melmoware plates rather than disposable thermocol ones, as they are eco-friendly and help reduce the cost. At the Beltala centre, food is served in people’s personal utensils.
There are paid personnel and a few volunteers to supervise the daily operations. Supervision and management of the quality of food supplied is done by the members of the Ann Bandhu Foundation.
As planned by the foundation, food is served at a price of Rs 6 per plate only. It is not served free of cost, as that would discourage the working spirit of the labourers and also lead to wastage.
The costing of each plate comes to almost Rs 12 and is supplied at 50% subsidy. The deficit is absorbed by donation from every family of the Ann Bandhu Foundation. Rs 6 is the price of a cup of tea at which people are being served a wholesome lunch which otherwise would cost a minimum of Rs 30 per plate.
After lunch time, if there is leftover food, it is distributed to the beggars at Kalighat or other places.
“We aim to increase the scale of operation to feed 8,000 to 10,000 people daily in the future,” says Sweta Chandgothia, an enthusiastic member of the Ann Bandhu Foundation. Since the number of plates being served has steadily increased over the last three months, there is a lot of scope for growth of this service. As such, the Foundation will be shifting their kitchen base to a bigger place in the near future.