Chennai: A 'community refrigerator' near Chennai's Elliot's Beach is changing the way the hungry are fed. Those who are hungry can just take away from the fridge without asking anyone.
- People can also donate books, clothes, toys and footwear
- Children often donate food for safekeeping in the fridge
- The 'community fridge' idea could be implemented at more areas
But who supplies the food?
People can leave surplus food in the fridge -- either home-made or bought from a restaurant. Anyone who is hungry is free to open the fridge and take something they want. No questions asked. No identity card required.
Tired and hungry, 72-year-old ragpicker J Kumar energised himself with bananas and fruit juice he collected from this cool machine. "For an abandoned person like me this is a boon. If I don't get food for lunch, I'd normally lie down hungry," he said.
On Saturday, around lunch time, a group of children stacked the fridge with sandwiches, juice and other goodies. An employee from a local restaurant also left a box full of biryani. The fridge contained, among other foods, bananas, oranges and pomegranates.
"There are hungry children collecting food from garbage. We should think a hundred times before we waste even a single grain. There are many who don't get even that," said Kamakshi, a 12-year-old student who left a food packet in the fridge.
Priyanka Seth, another student, said, "Think once about all those people who starve." Other students said they keep replenishing the fridge regularly.
People can also donate books, clothes, toys and footwear. A shelf adjoining the refrigerator has them all.
Antony, a Class 9 student who has lost his parents, took home a pair of his dream denim trousers. Jaishree, daughter of an autorickshaw driver, has picked up a colouring book. Her brothers got a pair of footwear and a Barbie doll, while her mother got a salwar.
"Though these are available in the market, we can't afford them. I'm so happy," the girl's mother M Meenakshi said.
The community fridge was the idea of Dr Issa Fathima Jasmine, an orthodontist. She said a high percentage of the food that India produces goes waste. "Actually we can feed double our population. But wastage is around 50 per cent. We are only asking people to bring the food that they would otherwise have thrown into the dustbin," Ms Jasmin said.
T Amudha, a software professional who brought surplus food, said it would be good idea to have a community fridge at every residential block. "We can feed the poor with our surplus. They don't have to depend on the government."