Annakshetra’s new Drive: Lord’s Prasadam for the Needy

Annakshetra  Foundation has moved a step ahead in its drive  to collect and distribute  leftovers from weddings , parties and hotels.  It has also taken up the initiative of distributing   unused  prasadam (holy food offered to the lord)  to the needy in  Jaipur city.

Many devotees who throng the famous Shri Govind Devji, Khole  ke  Hanumanji, Nakoda Bhairav temples  often hold “sawa manis”—offering of a 50 kg prasadam-- as a gesture of gratitude to the God. However, due to the hectic pace of urban life, often family and friends do not turn up in expected numbers to share the prasadam. Then, it becomes a problem for the host to utilize the unused holy offering.

Annakshetra has offered to collect and distribute  the  prasadam so that it doesn’t end up in a waste bin or landfill.  Since February this year, Annakshetra workers have collected unused or leftover prasadam from different temples and distributed to the members of weaker sections of society. The labourers’  families residing in Muhana Mandi, Balaji Tower and Madrampura localities of Jaipur were fed with the  prasadam collected.

The foundation has been working on best utilization of leftovers and unused food at weddings and other gala parties since 2010. Annakshetra is the sister organization of Centre for Communication Development, which works in the field of solid waste management.

Dr. Vivek Agrawal, the trustee secretary of CDC says, “Food wastage is not just wastage of precious foodgrain  but it is also a gross misuse of all the efforts right from agriculture production to transport, fuel and manpower.” In addition, when the unused food goes to the municipal waste instead of feeding hungry mouths, it also harms the environment.

Annakshetra  fed nearly 9,200 people in Jaipur  from the leftover food collected on the occasion of Akshya Tritiya, one of the most auspicious wedding muhurats (occasion) in India. Called the Annakshetra Mahabhoj Programme, it was on the line of the UNEP’s (United Nations Environment Programme) Feeding 5000 Programme and this year’s environment day theme “think, eat, save” .

The foundation runs a  24 hour helpline where people  call for food collection.  In addition to the weddings, parties and other mega events, now temples, ashrams and individuals organizing holy events are also contacting Annakshetra requesting  to distribute the surplus food they have. A few days ago, when Shri Shri Ravi Shankar  Ashram in Jaipur had access food, they contacted Annakshetra. That food could feed nearly four hundred people. Similarly, prasadam and food collected from Khole ke Hanumanji, Nakoda Bhairav and other places has so far benefitted almost a thousand needy.

The basic aim of Annakshetra is to minimize food wastage by effective channelization of the leftover food from parties, wedding, restaurants and temples. It is making a sincere effort to  fill the gaps in existing society by delivering the spare food collected from donors to the needy people of local community. The senior programme manager Dr. Ambika Nag says, “the philosophy is that each grain of food that has been cooked should be served to satisfy the hunger of the needy. In a country like India which is home to the largest number of hungry people in the world, saving available food to feed the hungry is the need of the hour.”

Funded by CDC, Annakshetra is getting good response from other cities to share its expertise to start similar  network in other cities. It also plans to launch awareness drive in educational institutions from July.

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