Volunteers fighting food waste and feeding the poor



(28 Aug 2016) FOR CLEAN VERSION SEE STORY NUMBER: 4052242

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A volunteer organisation in Pakistan is working to feed the poor and cut food waste at the same time.
The Robin Hood Army takes surplus meals from restaurants and distributes it to the poor in slums, orphanages and shelters.

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Boxes of tasty treats destined for the needy.
Volunteers are busy picking up food from restaurants across Karachi as part of a movement called the Robin Hood Army.
These young students and professionals take surplus food from restaurants and distribute it at slums, orphanages and shelters.
The merry men and women of the Robin Hood Army are combating food waste and hunger in a country where one in three people are food insecure.
Pakistan ranks alongside Ethiopia on the Global Hunger Index, while reports suggest that 40 percent of the food cooked in the country goes to waste.
“The Robin Hood Army fights food wastage. We approach restaurants that have surplus food available with them. We have tons of restaurants on board. We have a list of about 16 restaurants that provide us food ranging from high-end to low-end restaurants. We collect the food over the period of the week. Then we identify locations. Every Sunday, we identify a location, and then we go and distribute the food over there. And the identification of the location is based on the number of people involved over there, the number of people living there, how poor the people over there are, and the number of kids involved,” explains Ali Ahmed, an engineer, who is one of the most active volunteers of the Robin Hood Army.
Robins, as the members are referred to, converge at a pre-determined meeting point after making food pick-ups from restaurants in their local areas.
Sameer Beg, a marketing professional, conducts a quick head count, and breaks down group members into teams to interact with and distribute food to different groups, including women and children.
At the designated location, slum children quickly surround team members, excited to see them again.
For them, a treat awaits. But for the Robin Hood Army, it isn’t just about handing out food.
“We have a separate children’s team on every distribution, where those volunteers, they play with children, they guide them. We make them form a queue or sit in a circle, we give them plates, we tell them how to eat; we ask them to finish it. In this way, we guide the children as well. We don’t just come and give food – no. We teach the kids, we tell the adults how to behave, for instance, they will only get food if they stand in a queue in an organized manner,” explains Beg.
The queues form quickly, as Robins engage the children in various activities. It’s a major treat as they get to eat things like biscuits, brownies and sandwiches.
One of the volunteers, Laiba Khan, a medical student, gets them to recite a popular Urdu poem.
Undeterred by the intermittent rain and puddles all around, the volunteers continue to hand over food to as many as they can.
“I think it will help if you are feeding even one stomach. It’s a huge deal. So, if like you know, we can start feeding, like you know, all the third world countries and the progressing over, I think, it will help a lot,” says Khan, calling the experience of interacting with the children transformative and educational.
Once the children are fed, the team distributes ‘Nihari’, a local stewed cuisine made from beef and curry, along with Roti or flatbread.
Going from home-to-home, they pour the food onto plates for locals.
For Allah Ditta, a garbage picker who lives here, the Robins are a blessing. Having eight children, his family rarely enjoys a full meal.
At the end of the distribution, the volunteers and recipients all appear content and happy.

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