They call it community fridge. It is not because the fridge is used for storing foods for many users under a communal system. Rather, those storing foods there do so for a noble purpose-to feed the hungry or those who cannot afford food. The concept is simple but translating it into reality someone has to take the initiative. Inspired by the novel idea, others then come forward to make the matter happen.
Minu Pauline, a restaurant owner in Kochi, Kerala, first set up a refrigerator outside her eatery for the poor who could not manage their food to appease their appetite. Moved by the plight of food scavengers looking for leftovers in bins, she set up the chilly storage there where along with her others willing to contribute could as well keep their extra foods they would otherwise throw away. By a single stroke, this restaurant owner managed to fight both waste and hunger. Her refrigerator was always filled up by victuals supplied by the affluent people in the locality. Once the poor came to know about the free supply, they enjoyed the liberty to pick up whatever they liked to eat from there.
Thus the fridge became a source of food for the needy. It is a community service with a difference. Those contributing to the novel food store also had the consolation that they were serving people they could not do on their own. Additionally, they were rendering the service at no extra expense.
Now this idea was perhaps borrowed by Chennai's Dr Issa Fathima Jasmine, an orthodontist. She with help from others in the community set up a refrigerator near Elliot Beach of the South Indian city. She is not a restaurant owner and has not the advantage of continuous supply of leftovers like that from Minu's cafe. But her community, particularly school students, have been most cooperative in keeping the fridge ready with provisions for the hungry. They have developed a habit of saving extra foods to be disposed of anyhow for the community fridge.
The hungry and the needy are sure to be grateful for the extraordinary humanitarian service. This is a good enough reward for the rich feeding those people. Sure enough, an element of uneasiness may trouble people's minds because leftovers are used for the purpose. But if well maintained, there is nothing wrong with such foods. Also stark necessity cannot but ignore such small irritation. Much as we may want otherwise, the world remains imperfect enough beyond our capacity to correct it. Feeding the poor with foods otherwise would have gone waste falls in the category of such imperfection but it is better than turning a blind eye to fellow human beings going empty stomach.
Now finally a proposition-what it would be like if many such community fridges are set up in the Bangladesh capital or other cities here? Dr Issa from Chennai reckons that about 50 per cent food in India goes waste. India could, according to her, feed double the population. One cannot be sure if 50 per cent foods go waste in India but there is no doubt that around one-third to 40 per cent foods are wasted in the developing countries alone. It is no less than 30 per cent worldwide.
On that count, Dhaka surely can make good use of its leftover foods. Some of the posh restaurants and bakeries do not sell unsold food within a day. Those can be collected for distribution among the hungry. In fact, in France such a system has been introduced. Where foods remain unconsumed, a charitable organization is informed and the latter collects those for distribution among the people who cannot afford. Why not introduce such a system here to feed the floating people and the street children? It will be a noble venture by any measure.