Community fridge feeds the poor

Arvind Prasanna A.

Chennai, Sep 22, 2017: The capital’s poor and undernourished can get free, wholesome meals at a community fridge at Besant Nagar, located outside the Tennis Club on 3rd Avenue.

The project is named “Ayyamittu Unn”, which means “Share with the needy before you eat”. The project was initiated and funded by Dr. Issa Fathima Jasmine, 34, an orthodontist who is also the managing trustee of The Public Foundation which manages the project. This is the first such fridge in the capital though the first in the state of Tamil Nadu was established in Coimbatore.

“The community fridge has definitely gained momentum since it was started a month back on August 20. People from all over the city now approach us to make donations,” she said when asked about the reception to the fridge among the public. “There were people who initially dismissed it as impractical. Right now, I’m just glad to see it doing well.” she added.

The fridge which is open on all days from 7am to 9pm also has a security guard who in addition to keeping an eye on the equipment also checks if the donated food is fit for consumption and follows the donation guidelines. Donors are also required to call Jasmine in advance and give her a list of the donations.

The donations, if they are cleared, are stored in the fridge for distribution. In addition to food, donations of books, clothes, stationery and footwear can also be made. Jasmine is looking to open more such fridges at places like Velachery and Maraimallai Nagar before the end of the year.

According to the Greater Chennai Corporation, daily solid waste generated by the city is over 5000 tons. Of this, eight percent (nearly 400 tons) is food waste and about 60 percent of it comes from residential areas.

Cutting down on this wastage is a sure way to increase availability of food for consumption. To that end, the city’s first community fridge was established at Besant Nagar with the main aim of receiving the excess food from households, restaurants and other sources and distribute it among the ones in need. However, not all food wastage comes from the domestic sector. The commercial sectors like restaurants, especially large food courts contribute as well.

“It does sound like a good idea but we don’t generate as much waste since we’re a made to order service.” said an employee at OMR Food Street in Navallur. Other employees had similar opinions but they also asserted that this scheme might prove useful when large party orders were undertaken since their wastage is sizeable. Places such as these might benefit from their own Community Fridges.