How Robin Hood Army is Partnering with Restaurants to Serve 1000s of Homeless
The Robin Hood Army has grown to 3500 active volunteers spread across 23 cities in India and Pakistan who have served just short of 400,000 people.
According to the Rapid Survey on Children (RSoC), conducted by the Central Government and UNICEF, 29.4 per cent of children aged less than three years were underweight, while 15 per cent were wasted which means low weight for their height. More 194 Million people live in hunger in the India, making it an epidemic problem. While policy makers quickly rise and fall in patience with the various Sustainable Development norms intervened by them, millions are finding it difficult to get two squares of meal a day.
Around the same time, every Sunday, after dark, a group of youth were seen in green attires, marching around the inner alleys of New Delhi, to search for citizens who have not had a meal in months. They called themselves the “Robins”, with packets of food from Au Bon Pain, Kebab Xpress, Midnight Munchies and many other restaurants. They aim to render abundance of the three things: a plentiful of free food, free hugs and a smile on the faces of the thousands who are a part of “Robin Hood Army”.
One of the founders of Robin Hood Army, was living in Lisbon, Portugal where he met Hunter Halder, an American who decided to make Portugal his home and launched a voluntary organization called Refood, which collects excess food from restaurants through a network of volunteers and serve this to less fortunate people.
On his return to India, Ghose started the Robin Hood Army alongside Anand Sinha. Using a hyperlocal model, they started to grow the organisation, which was initially had membership of only friends and colleagues from their close community.
The Robin Hood Army has grown to 3500 active volunteers spread across 23 cities in India and Pakistan who have served just short of 400,000 people. Sarah Afridi (who set up RHA Pakistan) studied with Ghose in London School of Economics. “When the Peshawar school attack happened, I called to offer my condolences. We started talking about the Robin Hood Army and realised that both countries are plagued by similar evils of hunger, wastage, and inequality. This is a way we can create real impact. Currently Team Pakistan has chapters in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore with a couple of hundred active Robins”, says the founder Neel Ghose.
In 2015, RHA also won the Sree Narayana Guru Award for social work. Jagjit Singh Kandhari, chief operating officer of Kebab Xpress, said they want to send across a social message to the corporates for doing their bit for a social cause. The people at some areas have now started recognising RHA volunteers and wait for them on Sundays.
The ideology of Robin Hood Army revolve around decentralisation. Small teams of young professionals scout for local restaurants to convince them to donate surplus food and identify clusters of people in need of the food. Such distributions is arrayed at the homeless and orphanages where they carry out weekly distributions.
Their Whatsapp Group called the Boiler Room consists of the heads of all city chapters across India and Pakistan. Through this we routinely share best practices they follow with their teams so that we can learn off each other. Functioning like micro startups, each one innovates in its own way, to bring new mechanism to RHA.
The team has distributed everything from biryani and dhal to sweet treats like cakes, brownies and biscuits. In Delhi and the National Capital Region alone, some 30 restaurants have been involved with the project, sometimes not only offering leftover food but cooking fresh meals for distribution.
Another Indian ceremony, where grandiose leads to waste is found in the Indian wedding brigade, which takes place between November and January. RHA groups also worked with caterers to make sure large amounts of uneaten food would be picked up, no matter how late at night. In 2012, up to 10,000 were fed solely on leftovers from 16 weddings held on Akshaya Tritiya, a day considered auspicious for Hindus to tie the knot.
The Robins have been identifying causes hindering food security to serves thousands of national across landscape of India, where people under BPL are gripped by harsh affects of hunger.
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