As an avid reader (and people stalker), most of my knowledge about the United States administration comes from reading and talking to people. It was because of the former that I came across the concept of food banks.
Food Banks are stores and centers that give out food supplies and groceries for extremely low prices, as compared to the market. Sometimes, the supplies might even be free. Shopping in a food #Bank is akin to shopping in a grocery store—you can choose what you want and pay for it—except for the change in prices.
Despite their popularity and necessity, food banks are a relatively new concept in the world. The need for food banks arose a few years ago, when America was experiencing a great economic downfall. Jobs were declining, and people were being laid off left and right. Many lost their homes, assets, and businesses, and national financial growth came to a standstill.
When one has limited resources, one naturally starts cutting down on one’s expenses. Food is usually among the first things to be seen off. People start buying fewer groceries, having two meals instead of three, and removing expensive ingredients from their diets. This, however, may not always equate to benefits in terms of health and nutrition, especially when it comes to children.
Food banks, thus, come as a boon for families and individuals in distress. What one needs to shop from a food bank are papers certifying that one is in need of assistance. Additionally, food banks are usually private agencies, and therefore work on funding and supplies from people and organizations. They generally buy their supplies at very low prices, or obtain them from food drives at grocery stores.
Food drives are food collection efforts organized at one’s local store or supply station. People either buy extra groceries, and drop the excess into collection bins, or donate good food that they might not use, such as unopened jars of jams, spices, mayonnaise and so on. Grocery stores often take out parts from their supplies for donating them to food banks.
In addition to selling food directly to customers, food banks also donate or sell groceries to food pantries and soup kitchens, the difference between them being that you do not have to produce any credentials to obtain food at the latter. For food pantries and soup kitchens, just showing up and getting in line means that one is in need of food. If your financial state does not guarantee you enough money to put food on the table every night, you can obtain the address for the nearest food pantry or soup kitchen from your food bank. However, the “front line” model, which means selling food directly to customers, is more conventional on six of the seven continents on which food banks have been opened.
As of late 2000, there are over 200 food banks and 6500 food pantries in the United States of America for those who are “food insecure”, that is, people who are not sure whether they will get their next meal. The statistics, when compared to those of India, are overwhelming, and somehow shameful.
With a population almost manifolds of the United States and the resources equally less, India is one country in desperate need of a proper (and corruption free) food banking network. A third of the world’s hunger inflicted population resides in India. 836 million Indians survive on less than twenty rupees a day (a little more than a quarter of a dollar, that is), and on any given night, over twenty crores sleep with no food in their bellies. With over seven thousand Indians dying of hunger every day, and over twenty five lakhs dying every year, hunger remains the foremost cause of death in India, followed by diseases like AIDS and Cancer. Furthermore, the number of people suffering from hunger remains more than the number of people below poverty line in the country. While 21.9% of the Indian population lives below poverty line, a staggering 80% of households suffer from hunger.
The initiative of Food Banking in India was forwarded by the establishment of the Delhi FoodBank, under the India FoodBanking Network. As part of its objective, the IFBN acquires grains, pulses, vegetables, and other necessities from stores and sources and donates them to old age homes, NGOs, orphanages, child care institutes, substance abuse clinics, shelter homes and so on. However, the Delhi FoodBank, operating in the Delhi/NCR Region, is perhaps the only registered FoodBank in India, and people all over the country have to rely on other ways to scrounge for food.
Some of those ways are Bhandaras and Langars. Held in religious institutes like temples and Gurudwaras, these provide free food to the needy regardless of age, caste, creed, religion, or sex. The daily langar held at the Golden Temple in Amristar is supposed to be the largest organized Langar in the world. The Singapore Buddhist Lodge is another centre that provides free vegetarian food to people. The problem, however, persists: Langars and Bhandaras are far and few in between.
However, the National Food Security Act of India, passed in 2013, came as a boon for over seventy five percent of rural and fifty percent of the urban population by securing their access to subsidized staple foods.
Despite everything that everyone shouts out for, food remains one of the most basic necessities of the people. A man can do without a home, or clothes on his back, but a hungry belly is often enough to turn a saint into a criminal. At the end, all one needs is two square meals down their throat, and some clean water to gulp it down, along with the assurance of its availability the next day. Like security, freedom, and integrity, food is a human right as well. To have twenty crores sleep without it every night is not only a shame, but a distress call to Indian authorities. A food bank would probably buy more food with twenty rupees than an individual could, and with such centres rising up in every corner of India, the duty would be divided among a unified sector working to eradicate one of the oldest and most rabid problems of this nation.
“What the people of this world want and have always wanted is bread and peace.”
—Patricia Young, UN General Assembly #Government