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Sam Pitroda leads charge to expand food banking in India

The harsh reality is India has the largest undernourished population and one quarter of the world’s hungry.

Three years ago, with the generous support of the John and Editha Kapoor Charitable Foundation, The Global Food Banking Network, an international organization working in 20 countries that uniquely addresses hunger and malnutrition by creating food banks as permanent community assets, conducted a feasibility study involving numerous field trips throughout India and a business plan to assist in the formation of the India Food Banking Network (IFBN).

Dr. Sam Pitroda, Special Advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for Infrastructure, Technology and Innovation, and chair of the IFBN Planning Forum, has embraced food banking to augment existing government and NGO efforts. “Government has a series of programs like the mid-day meal, and the voluntary sector has programs like Akshaya Patra. Overall, food distribution is a huge activity in India. We will bring technology, logistics, IT, and involvement of the local community to feed their own community,” said Pitroda.

Food banking is a system that moves nutritious food and grocery products from donors to the people in need and engages all sectors of society in the effort. This non-profit distribution enterprise works through agencies that include school feeding programs, food pantries, soup kitchens, hospices, substance abuse clinics, after-school programs and other non-profit organizations.

Pitroda said a pilot food bank would open its doors in Delhi in May. The IFBN team is working on raising capital, meeting with local Indian companies and international companies such as Pepsi, Cargill, Brittanica and Unilever, and discussing regulatory changes to create a supportive environment for donations.

In Haryana, plans are underway to open a food bank to serve the rural community outside Delhi in July. “After these two trials, we will learn from them to scale up,” said Pitroda. India’s first-ever food banking system will connect those in need with those who can give, keeping in mind the three principles that make food banks successful: procuring, managing and delivering. After establishing the first food bank in India to carter towards food security at the New Dehli state level, next steps will include:

— Scale up from 10,000 beneficiaries based on continued need and sourcing;

— Planning and Implementation Board of thought leaders for the food security evolution and growth of food banking across India;

— Learnings towards enhanced capacities of the food bank implementers established and empowered at community levels for interaction; and

— Integration with food retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and donors established for sustained ongoing integration in a process-driven model leveraging technologies.

There is a major role the global Indian community can play in financially supporting the proven solution of food banks. To keep abreast of the latest developments in India, please visit The Global FoodBanking Network’s Web site at www.foodbanking.org.

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