Putting an end to hunger games

While Robin Hood and his gang from the English folklore stole from the rich to serve the poor, the Robin Hood Army takes food from volunteer restaurants and distributes it among children and senior citizens on the streets   

Five years ago, college friends Anand Sinha and Neel Ghose began donating food and clothes to the needy in Delhi. But with financial constraints, their donation drive schedules were pretty erratic. It didn’t take long, though, for the duo to take their vision more seriously.

Volunteers from Robin Hood Army feed a mini army of kids at Worli 

Earlier this year, when Ghose visited Lisbon, Portugal, for work, he came across Re-Food International, an organisation that distributes food to the hungry and curbs food wastage. “That’s when we asked ourselves: Why not start something similar in India?” recalls the 27-year-old. The Robin Hood Army (RHA), a group that collects surplus food from restaurants and distributes it to the less fortunate in cities across India, was born in August this year.

“Today, RHA has 1,000 volunteers and presence in six cities — Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Jaipur, Kolkata and Hyderabad,” Ghose adds.

As for the name of their organisation, Sinha says it came to them effortlessly. “On the day of our first drive, most of us wore wearing Lincoln green tees and one of the volunteers joked about how we were Robin Hoods, stealing from the rich and distributing to the poor. The name just stuck with us. It’s just that we have not been forced to steal, as the restaurants we have collaborated with have been more than forthcoming,” he smiles.

The Mumbai chapter
The Mumbai branch of RHA is a floating group of 40 to 50 volunteers. According to 26-year-old Pranay Mangharam, one of the Mumbai coordinator for RHA, the drives are conducted once a week on Sundays. “Since most of the volunteers are working professionals, the drives usually happen on weekends. We are trying to work towards making the drives a daily model,” says Mangharam, a lawyer by profession.

During the week, volunteers go scouting for children and senior citizens on the streets and plan the drives accordingly.

“We have conducted drives in Chimbai village in Bandra, Cadell Road in Mahim, Colaba, Byculla, Lower Parel, Parel, Worli and Andheri. The idea is to deliver food to children who are not cared for and old people on the streets. While it is difficult to say no to ‘able’ homeless people, we try to be fair to all,” says Mangharam, adding that there are usually two volunteers per cluster area.

Pranay Mangharam distributes food to an old man outside VT station

Last week, a Chinese restaurant in Bandra, Noodle Play, along with Woodside Inn and The Pantry at Colaba, donated food for 100 people each. “Noodle Play has been kind enough to give us dal, sabzi and rice for distribution, which is prepared specially for our drives as it is not on the menu. Another restaurant, Oye Kake in Ghatkopar as well as Jumbo King have come onboard,” says Mangharam. From reaching out to 75 needy people in August, their last drive touched 300. In a city where thousands go to sleep on an empty stomach, each number counts.

To volunteer, visit their Facebook page, Robin Hood Army.

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