Any programme that feeds the hungry is welcome but few challenges always remain: respecting the dignity of hungry people; reducing the waiting time for people before they are served, avoiding wastage, and above all, making the effort sustainable.
In this context, Kozhikode, Kerala, a south Indian state, has developed a good model.
Fully funded by the people of Kozhikode, the initiative – OPERATION SULAIMANI – aims to ensure that no one in the city goes hungry.
People can collect a free meal coupon from any of the distribution centres and walk into any restaurant in the city, where a meal is served without asking any questions with full respect for the dignity of persons. The volunteer team has placed donation boxes across the city, into which anyone can donate. This money is used to reimburse the meal coupons that are collected at the restaurants.
At the initiative of the district collector, the Kerala State Hotel and Restaurants Association has engaged over 125 city restaurants to become a part of this innovative scheme being successfully implemented for over two years now.
Operation Sulaimani is doing so well because it is a voluntary effort with the participation of community, leadership of the district collector and the fact that the capabilities of existing systems are being utilized. No big kitchens are built, there is no food wastage; and funding comes from the community itself with no dependence on big donors. People are served food with full respect for their dignity in city restaurants, where everyone else goes to eat.
While some people may feel that this facility may be misused. Some non- deserving people may also take the free food coupons and eat at a restaurant. But should we be worried about it? It should not be seen as wastage. It is just a spin-off effect of a big initiative that aims to ensure no one should go hungry. I am sure that after eating a few times, people will start donating if they can. We must trust people. Everyone wants to be part of a good cause.