Thirty-seven-year-old Ritesh Vaid has been a busy man for the past month,thanks to the wedding season. However,its not celebrations,music or dance that are keeping him on his toes. He is wedded to a cause hopping marriage halls to collect leftovers from venues and deliver them to the needy waiting for a morsel. Ritesh,accompanied by his friends,has made it a mission to not allow leftover food at mega weddings to end up in garbage when there are people who toil through the day to earn a decent meal.
Ritesh,a resident of Mulund,has been engaged in this voluntary activity for the past few years under the banner of the Arham Yuva Group. It was his initiative to have a non-profit organisation which was founded in 2005. Over the years,he has created a network of more than 300 volunteers across Mumbai who receive calls from organisers of major events in their localities,collect leftovers from parties,weddings and corporate events and deliver them to shelter homes.
We believe wasting food is a major crime. It should be the responsibility of every individual to ensure that edible food does not end up in trash. So when people call us saying they have excess food,we immediately scan the database of orphanages and shelter homes and see which one has a requirement at that point, said Ritesh,who along with volunteers,has helped several organisations such as Don Bosco Shelter Home in Matunga and Missionaries of Charity in Airoli.
Each of our 19 centres in the city receives at least 10 calls a day from event organisers. However,due to logistical constraints,we are able to service only two or three. We must have fed at least 10,000 people by now, he added.
At times when the group cannot manage to pick up the food and deliver it to shelter homes,volunteers request party organisers to deliver it to the NGO concerned on their own.
For that,they provide the organisers with details such as address and contact number of the NGO.
Ritesh,who works as a sales professional,was inspired to start this service in Mumbai after returning from an official trip to his office headquarters in Germany.
There was a special organisation operating from an unassuming corner of his plush office that would take all the excess food at parties and events to the destitute.
Impressed with the concept and the operating model,he launched a similar project in Mumbai.
The biggest difference between there and here is that here,people dont insist on RSVPs when they give out invitations. It is an absolute must as the food is ordered based on the number of invitees, Ritesh said,adding that leftovers from a mid-sized event are enough to feed at least 40-50 people.
Riteshs wife Reena,too,helps him with the cause. The couple devotes their weekends and evenings to the task. However,there is a condition they strictly follow. Being Jains,they dont touch non-vegetarian food.