Regarded as one of the fastest growing economies, India is a country which is racing toward constant improvement in life expectancy, literacy rates and health conditions. However, of the 1.2 billion inhabitants of the country, the conditions of those living in the poorest regions are still difficult. Despite its status as an economic power, mortal malnutrition persists. Every evening in India, 200 million people try to fall asleep despite their gnawing hunger. And every day, 3,000 children die of hunger.

In Mumbai, where thousands of people receive cancer treatments, Sunny of the Focolare community, wrote: “During the treatments, the families sleep on the road or around the hospital, lacking all necessities.” This is an alarming situation about the poor, especially if compared with the data related to the growing waste of perfectly whole foodstuffs, thrown away at the end of wedding banquets, rites, and family parties. The country is one of the world’s main producers of foodstuff, but it is likewise one in which a good part of these goods are wasted. Among the causes is the shortage of transport and warehousing systems, especially the “cold chain” system: according to estimates of the Indian Ministry of Agriculture in 2017, the value of the losses connected to foodstuff waste (not only in terms of farming goods and foodstuffs, but also in the use of water and energy) could range between 8 and 15 billion dollars yearly.

From 2017 onward the non-profit RotiBank has been working to gather food rejects or even food freshly prepared from food companies, like hotels or cafeterias, and distributing them in a safe way among slum dwellers or for homeless people.

“Roti” is a typical, round Indian bread, made from a dough of whole-bran flour and water, also baked on stones. After having received a gift of a van, RotiBank is now working to increase the number of vehicles and staff. Many of the people who benefited are children or laborers who don’t get a minimum salary to be able to survive. The non-profit initiative relies on a chain of volunteers who, after their normal work hours, participate in the collection and distribution of leftover food. “It is essential – the presentation of the initiative says – to redistribute the leftovers, as well as perfectly edible food intended for the dumpsite, to people who are really in need.”

Sunny explained: “We decided to start our battle with an awareness afternoon in support of this non-profit organization. About 45 members of the Mumbai Focolare community made themselves available to serve the meals. It was an occasion for us to monitor our own shopping methods, and realize that every day we can set something aside to allow these families to have their lunch. It was moving to see how many people were waiting to receive a bit of food. One of the participants said: “I’m so happy to be part of this experience. I shall never forget the expression on the faces of the people…”

Chiara Favotti
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