His mantra: Don’t waste food

Meet this 27-year-old young and energetic social activist from Chamarajpet in central Bengaluru who not only preaches but also practices what he preaches – Save food to feed the hungry.Yuvaraj M has been spearheading the campaign against wastage of food in Bengaluru through a unique initiative to feed the hungry in Bengaluru. Y Maheswara Reddy has more….

Yuvarajcollects leftover food from marriage halls and distribute it among needy people around Kempegowda Bus Station and KrantiveeraSangolli Rayanna Railway Station.
“I would like people to not cook food beyond what is needed. How can we justify wastage of food while so many people go to bed without having food?’’ Yuvaraj asks.

It all began when Yuvaraj, who works at a private company that is specialized in distribution network equipment, visited the office of the Joint Director, Department of Agriculture at Kodagu. While waiting to meet the Joint Director, he happened to read a pamphlet that conveys a message to the public not to waste food.

“I have requested the office staff to give that pamphlet to me but they said no stating that they have no extra pamphlets. I copied the content of the pamphlet onto a plain paper. After coming to Bengaluru, I made hundreds of laminated pamphlets and distributed them among hotels and marriage halls,’’ narrates Yugavaraj.

As a member of Leo Club of Bengaluru West, he succeeded in convincing other members of Leo Club to join hands with him to create awareness on the importance of saving food. Around 50 members of Leo Club have joined him in organizing awareness programmes.

“I received a good response from the management of marriage halls and hotels. They began calling me whenever there is excess food,’’ says Yuvaraj.
He has a good rapport with not only hoteliers and managers of marriage halls but also with caterers who are responsible for cooking and supplying food at marriage and other functions.
“The caterers inform me whenever there is excess food. I have told them not to cook food beyond what is required but they are helpless since they have to follow their clients who organize the functions,’’ explains Yuvaraj.

It is not that everything is a bed of roses for Yuvaraj. There are occasions where he has had to refuse to visit marriage halls to collect the leftover food.
“I refuse to visit marriage halls after 10 pm since it will not be prudent to collect the leftover food late in the night. The reason is that I have to waste it due to lack of takers. If I get a call from a marriage hall at 10 pm, it will take me 30 minutes to reach the spot and again 30 minutes to bring the food to KrantiveeraSangolli Rayanna Railway Station and there will be no takers by the time I reach the railway station. So, I refuse to visit marriage halls after 10 pm to avoid wasting food,’’ narrates Yuvaraj.

There have also been occasions when peoplecalled Yuvaraj advising him to collect five chapattis or a small quantity of rice. “Some people organize functions at their homes. They call me to collect a few chapattis or small quantity of rice. In such cases, I advise them to distribute the leftover food to the needy people in their area,’’ says Yuvaraj.
Earlier, he used to visit marriage halls on a two-wheeler to collect the leftover food. It was very tough to carry the vessels on the two-wheeler. “I have to thank the members of Leo Club of Bangalore who bought an Omni van for this purpose. They are also contributing money for the fuel to the vehicle,’’ he says.

He came across a report prepared by the University of Agricultural Sciences in 2011 which pointed out that food worth Rs 400 crore is wasted every year at marriage halls in Bengaluru. “Of this, 9,500 tonnes of served food and 4,500 tonnes of unserved food go waste every year in Bengaluru. This can be avoided only when people stop using marriage as a marker of status and prestige,’’ he opines.

On May 5, 2017, he received phone calls from Vasavi Temples situated at Visvesvarapura, Kumaraswamy Layout and Banashankari to collect the excess food prepared at these temples on the occasion of VasavaiJayanthi. “I collected vegetable pulao, curd rice and bisibelebath from these temples and distributed to 700 people at KrantiveeraSangolli Rayanna Railway Station and Yesvantpur Railway Station till 2.30 am,’’ he recalls.

Simple marriage

Yuvaraj wants to be a role model for others by walking the talk. He is set to tie the nuptial knot to Mamata K, a B.Com graduate shortly. He has made it a point to Mamata’s parents that the number of invitees to the marriage should be kept at a minimum and the marriage should be simple. “

“I am trying to convince my future in-laws to agree to my suggestion. I hope they will understand me and agree to keep the marriage function simple,’’ he says.
Meanwhile, Yuvaraj’s fiancée Mamata said she too prefers a simple marriage. “I agree with Yuvaraj who wants to avoid wastage of food during marriage function,’’ Mamata says.

Govt’s role

In April, Food and civil supplies minister U T Khader said the government was contemplating a policy on curbing the wastage of food and distributing the left overs for the urban poor. Khader said the government will also consider imposing a penalty if required for the purpose of curbing lavish weddings with food wastage.

"We will implement a policy which will involve reputed non-governmental organizations (NGO) in collecting the leftovers from marriage halls, event houses, hotels and restaurants for distributing them to the urban poor,’’ Khader said.

However, Yuvaraj is not enthused with Minister Khader’s statement. He wants the minister to make a sincere effort to create awareness among the public. “I met the minister and the officials of food and civil supplies department. The officials organized a meeting but no decision was taken. I happened to see food (served for media persons during a press meet) being wasted at the minister’s chambers. If this is the case, what can I expect from the officials of the food and civil supplies department?’’ he asks.

It is obvious that this social activist wants the state government to do something to prevent wastage of food worth crores of rupees. Will it, or won’t it? It is left to Minister Khaderto walk the talk.

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