Citizen social responsibility (CSR) is growing from strength to strength in the time of COVID-19. Citizen-led initiative Khaana Chahiye epitomises how individuals can make a difference when they come together for social change, especially in crises like the current pandemic.
Khaana Chahiye was co-founded by Pathik Muni, Ruben Mascarenhas, Rakesh Singh, Shishir Joshi, Neeti Goel, Swaraj Shetty and Anik Gadia to solve food insecurity in their beloved city of Mumbai during COVID-19 while mapping the homeless and assisting migrant workers reach their destination.
The effort involved identifying hunger pockets across the city of Mumbai, validating that the beneficiaries are absolutely destitute, mapping this demand with the nearest kitchen capacity, which was built by activating the dormant kitchens of restaurants across Mumbai.
Why Khaana Chahiye succeeded
Khaana Chahiye was designed around the concept of hyper-local food supply followed by food delivery firms like Swiggy and Zomato. This ensured that volunteers spend less time serving and lower logistics to handle. The logistics were huge, considering that the citizens were distributing over 70,000 cooked meals daily in the midst of a lockdown.
Khaana Chahiye ran on a flexible blend of local transport providers, courier companies and city transport buses provided by the BMC. A team of over 150 volunteers and over 500 local points of contact handled last-mile delivery.
Secret to scaling up
The reason they could scale up from a handful of people to a team of over 650 responsible citizens in a matter of days is a credit to their Human Resource model. It was conceptualized on the principles applied by HR firms. Each requirement would be mapped against the skillset of every volunteer request across their website, social media pages and groups.
Running a tight ship
As the team started growing, so did the challenges. These included arranging “Essential Services” passes to safety gear for each volunteer. Masks and hand sanitizer stocks were disappearing fast, so they built partnerships with direct wholesale suppliers to ensure non-stop delivery at their dispatch centres. They set up a team that would liaison with the administration, ensuring the issuance of Essential Services passes for all rotational volunteers.
The plan was laid on the foundation of ensuring food supply over the 5 main arterial roads of the island city, namely – Western Express Highway, Eastern Express Highway, SV Road, Linking Road, and LBS Marg. The plan created a smooth supply, by having designated food pickup points for local points of contact, who would then work along with the volunteers to ensure hassle-free last-mile distribution.
Serving the migrant population
The citizen-led initiative’s scale of operations caught the attention of the local municipal administration due to which Khaana Chahiye went on to adopt 3 out of the 4 Shramik Express departure railway stations in Mumbai. They catered to over 300 Shramik Express trains serving around 5 lakh migrants with food, snacks, water and sanitization kits for their travel. They also set up relief operations at all 4 entry/ exit points of the city, serving over 1 lakh migrants on foot.
Impact of Khaana Chahiye
Khaana Chahiye arranged transport and food for the journey for over 50,000 stranded labourers through the Ghar Bhejo Campaign; adopted 32 orphanages across Mumbai for the entire lockdown period, serving them cooked meals or ration kits; adopted 3 Adivasi padas in Aarey forest where they served cooked meals daily while 11 Adivasi padas in Sanjay Gandhi National Park got a ration supply for two months.
Khaana Chahiye provided ration support to 5 community kitchens for two months. The initiative also looked out for the socially disadvantaged. They adopted and helped 100 transgender persons, 800 sex workers, 900 children in night shelters, 500 families of visually disabled persons, 400 families in Palghar and 1000 families in Raigad district (during Cyclone Nisarg) and 100 families of domestic help with ration support. Our four-legged friends weren’t ignored. The programme adopted 500 stray dogs for daily feeding since June 22.
Recognition and future plan
The efforts of the responsible citizens behind Khaana Chahiye have been acknowledged by Swachh Bharat and the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). Their original model has been featured on various news channels and print publications. They are possibly the only citizen movement in India to have raised Rs. 1,75,00,000 online in a mere 100 days, served over 47 lakh cooked meals and distributed over 300 tonnes of dry ration.
These responsible citizens are currently working on a fully self-sustainable plan based on the concept of community fridge in partnership with National Restaurant Association of India. They are creating India’s first Hunger Map in partnership with Mumbai University.