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Don’t chuck that food!

Padmanabhan serves excess food from weddings and parties to poor students in Coimbatore. Photo: M. Periasamy   | Photo Credit: M. PERIASAMY

A determined young face stares back at me from the Pollination Project website and that is how I first learnt of Padmanaban Gopalan.

Earlier, a whatsapp forward had caught my attention with the words “no food waste” and a link. Young Padmanaban, I learnt, has been nominated as a visionary for 2015 by “Pollination Project”, California. The project gives seed grants to those who make a difference in their community.

On the 29th July 2015, Padmanaban Gopalan will be awarded the 1000th grant in appreciation for his work in providing food to those in need of it.

His name was proposed by Poornima Bhavesh, who has herself won the grant, when she was witness to his social service.

Padmanaban Gopalan’s motto is “Be the change that I want to see in the world”. In his 2nd year at college, he co-founded the green club at GCT.

After graduation, in 2014, he along with a few friends set up S.P.I.C.E (Society Promoting Innovation Creativity & Entrepreneurship).

Their objective was to encourage children to think out-of-the-box for a greener world. Padmanaban interacted with many schools in and around Coimbatore and it was then that he saw how much food children wasted. Tiffins were emptied into dustbins, food was flung at each other playfully or just left around carelessly.

He found out that each day 12 to 18 kgs of food were thrown into the garbage truck along with other school waste which made it almost impossible to segregate. He figured that one school with 1200 children had an average waste of 3875 kgs of ‘edible’ food in one year.

On World Food Day, Padmanaban decided to put his food management plan into action and registered the domain nofoodwaste.in.

His first awareness campaign was conducted at Carmel Garden School. The message was to try and make the school a ‘zero food waste campus’. He did a survey and conducted an audit.

Many other schools invited him to conduct similar audits.

Padmanaban soon noticed results. He knew for sure now that student-involved movement was definitely the way forward. Next, Padmanaban began to look at leftovers at hotels. He packed the uneaten food and gave it to the homeless. Then he turned his attention to the colossal waste at weddings.

In November 2014, he conducted an Awareness Marathon. He shared his mobile number and people were encouraged to call him in the event of excess leftovers. His first call to pick up food was at a reception at a private home. He carried three shopping bags full of food and distributed them to slum dwellers near the Government Hospital. As calls became more frequent, he and his friends Dinesh and Sudhakaran packed up food from kalayana mandapams.

When the numbers increased from 50 packets to 400, they had to figure out a different way of doing things. Volunteers were dwindling, packing leftovers was tiresome and they were unable to find enough homeless people to give 400 packets of food. They approached orphanages and ashrams, and finally, Fr. Xavier, at St. Joseph’s ITI Ashram, happily accepted the food procured by such hard work and dedication.

The team decided to borrow utensils from people in that area for easy distribution of food. This is the practice they follow today.

Padmanaban neighbours and many others generously lend him their vessels. They now supply frequently to 15 ashrams or orphanages. They carry out all this work on a two wheeler.

In order to streamline the work they are doing, Padmanaban has all the statistics on his computer and makes daily logs. Mid afternoon is usually when he gets calls about the availability of food. Anandhi bakery at SIDCO provides him with food regularly. Caterers from Perur, Mr. Hariharan and Mr. Suresh also help and put him in touch with many functions and happenings in the city. “Helping hands” at Kovaipudur also encourage his work. Padmanaban was invited to attend a leadership summit where he put down his vision on paper.

He thanks people such as Shobhana Kumar and Shankar Vanavarayar for encouraging him to read motivational pieces that helped him see his chosen path with clarity. Opportunities began to present themselves.

He met people who were eager to help with filming a documentary and formulating a web design. These were just what he needed to cement his vision.

Padmanaban Gopalan’s vision for 2015 is an India with zero food wastage. He wants to set up ‘Last minute shops’, where people who have excess food in their homes can sell it.

Padmanaban’s advice to reduce food waste could not be more simple:

There is only so much one can eat, so buy just what you require.

Look around your locality and share excess food with those who need it.

If you think you cannot use up food that is approaching its expiry date in time, give it to someone who will.

If you are eating out and there are leftovers, pack it up and give it to someone who is hungry.

Get children involved

Select five no-food waste ambassadors in each school

Get them to check the dustbin and send him a daily report

Suggest ways to bring down wastage. (Bring just what you can eat. If you have more share it with others. Keep dry food and wet food separately. Take leftovers back home.)

Get the kids to pledge: “In our school we have wasted 3500 kgs of food this year. I alone am responsible for 15 kgs. I promise to reduce, reuse and recycle.”

* PSG primary and nursery school set up three daily dumps to throw daily food waste. This was turned into compost by adding dry leaves and letting it decompose naturally.

* ABC Matric School at Avarampalayam uses grow bags into which they discard their food waste. They sprinkle it with compost accelerator to let it become manure.

“No food waste” needs volunteers. You can volunteer at 9629334185

No Food waste helpline is 90877 90877

Follow Padmanaban on http://www.facebook.com/agpadmanaban

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 6:28:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/padmanabhan-gopalan-and-no-food-waste/article7336815.ece

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