Coronavirus: Feeding India’s Poor During Lockdown

After India went under a complete lockdown during coronavirus threat, a group of volunteers has been tirelessly helping those stranded and hungry. In just seven days they have helped over 13,000 people in need. Read more about how they did it and how you can support the cause.

After the country went into a complete lockdown due to Coronavirus threat, Hari Lal, a middle-aged daily wage worker, along with 20 others, started his journey from Delhi to his home in Katni, Madhya Pradesh. After a truck dropped them on a highway, they were stranded near Agra. They were hungry, injured, and without any means to reach home.

It was the middle of the night and they had nothing except a phone number, which could be their only ray of hope. When Hari Lal dialed the number from a nearby petrol pump, he barely had any hope. But after a few rings, he heard a voice from the other end of the call.

He shared his plight with the man on the phone and soon the help arrived. The entire group safely reached their home the next day. All because of a phone number, which Hari Lal received on WhatsApp from someone.

Hari Lal is just one of over 13,000 people that Feed India, a volunteer-run campaign has helped. Started with an objective to help those in need during the lockdown period, Feed India has been providing ration, medical, and transport help to the lesser privileged during this time of crisis.

Run by Manish Sharma, along with a group of over 125 volunteers, Feed India has been working across India to ensure that no one goes hungry.

“We have been working with the lesser privileged community for a long time. And after the lockdown due to Corona, we identified three major challenges the labourers were facing; medical, ration, and transport. We decided to use our large volunteer network to provide them timely help,” said Manish Sharma, founder, Feed India.

How does it work?

Sharma and his team released 10 National Helpline numbers across their networks on 29th March, 2020. This helpline works 24 hours and provides timely help to anyone who calls them.

From distributing ration kits to delivering necessary medicines and providing accommodation for those stranded in the middle of nowhere, the team has helped over 4,500 families in just one week.

“We are helping those who have nowhere to go. The government will distribute ration to those who have ration cards. But what about those who have no ration cards? There are at least two to three crores migrants without ration cards, who cannot access government benefits. We are reaching out to them,” Sharma said.

The idea is to create a ration bank, where each family is provided a “ration kit”, which includes 5 kgs of flour, 5 kgs rice, 2 kgs pulses, 500 ml cooking oil, and a few spices. One kit covers a family of five for two weeks.

“There is fear in the country. Villagers are not letting migrants enter their villages as they think they will bring the virus from the cities. We are getting hundreds of calls each day,” Sharma said.

Apart from directly impacting over 4,500 families in 71 cities, the group has also created a huge network of volunteers.

In just a week they have managed to provide ration, food, and accommodation to groups as big as of 300 labourers. What started as a need-driven initiative, took a bigger shape when people kept joining hands.

The challenge

The biggest challenge currently is to fund the project. Due to the high number of calls for help, the group is quickly running short of funds and needs urgent financial support to keep moving forward.

They also need support in the form of ration.

“We need help, especially now more than ever. We need volunteers to handle the supply chain, we need funds to buy ration and medicines, we need people to donate ration,” Sharma said.

Sharma says that since lockdown policies are so strict, the volunteers face extreme health and safety risks while delivering these essentials. If more people join hands from different parts of the country, it will be easier to handle many more cases.

Sharma also urges people to share their helpline numbers as much as they can so that it can reach more people in need.

If you want to support the Feed India campaign financially, please donate to their crowdfunding campaign. You can do so by clicking here.

If you want to donate ration, you can do so by calling on this number- 97138 95923


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About the author

Shreya Pareek