Mumbai

A quarter plate for childhood

An initiative blends food and art to draw attention to India’s malnutrition problem

One in four children in India has never known what it is like to eat a sumptuous meal with laughter, love and family at the table. Also, 22.3% of children under five are stunted, 21.4% are underweight and 13.9% are wasted in the 10 most populous cities of India, according to a 2018 report by Naandi Foundation, a Hyderabad-based non-profit organisation.

On the other hand, people who have grown up in relatively stable environments remember their childhood as happy, with warm food memories.

The Plated Project, an initiative “that uses art to end hunger” hopes to bring the first group closer to the second. It has joined hands with well-known pastry chef, Pooja Dhingra, to unveil an art series, ‘A Quarter Plate of Nostalgia’. As part of the series, six plates with artwork by international artists will be on display at the Le15 Café in Colaba, which Ms. Dhingra started a few years ago.

Proceeds from the sale of these plates will be donated to the NGO, Save The Children India. Priced at ₹1,420 each, the plates will be available for sale till November 14, Children’s Day, at theplatedproject.com and at the store.

The goal is to provide meals for 250 hearing impaired and mentally challenged children at Save The Children’s school in Bandra Kurla Complex for a year. Each plate sold will provide 14 nutritious meals for a child.

A quarter plate for childhood

Multiplier effect

“People pay a lot for art, why not use it to solve a hunger problem? We need that one small step that will lead to many more,” said Chitresh Sinha, CEO of Chlorophyll Innovation Lab, which initiated The Plated Project.

The unique thing about ‘A Quarter Plate of Nostalgia’ is that one-fourth of the area in each plate is left blank to communicate “the sobering reality that these plates aim to fix”: the malnourishment data.

Each piece of art depicts one happy childhood memory. “The genesis of the concept was that we all have happy memories of childhood, mainly because we had parents who fed us, we went to school, and so on. But a hungry child has no happy memories,” said Mr. Sinha. “The brief for artists was to pick happy memories and depict it on three-fourths of the plate. One-fourth was left blank intentionally.”

The idea came from one of Mr. Sinha’s team members, who said people spend, on average, ₹1,500 on a meal, but find it difficult to give the same amount to charity. “There are two factors here,” said Mr. Sinha, “One, people are not engaging enough in charity, and see it as a task or a mandatory thing. And two, we need it to be scalable.”

Art and food

The artists will create art exclusively for Chlorophyll, without charging them a fee. The company, in turn, will print the art on plates and partner with malls and art galleries to retail them. “For each plate that gets sold, 20% of the profit goes to the artist, and the remaining to charity,” said Mr. Sinha.

Chlorophyll works with production vendors in Delhi and Mumbai. The art work is produced in the artist’s studio, and rendered digitally.

Every month, the Lab collaborates with an NGO and selects a theme, and artists create works based on it. At least 10 charity partners are working with Chlorophyll, and contributions have so far gone to Kranti, Save the Children, Akshay Patra and CRY.

A quarter plate for childhood

Artists’ brief

Global artists like Sandhya Prabhat from the U.S., Ashwin Chacko from Ireland, and Annushka Hardikar, Santanu Hazarika, Nikhil Shinde and Aishwarya Mankar from India have created work linked to childhood: board games, fairy tales, television and more.

For Ms. Mankar (24), the idea came to her in a flash, after three to four days of effort yielded no result. Her colours were drawn from her own childhood, spent playing Snakes and Ladders, Rubik’s Cube, Uno and marbles.

The best part of the project, for her, was the sense of achievement at “doing something for the community” and working shoulder to shoulder with artists she looked up to. “The sense of fulfilment is greater than anything I have ever felt,” she said.

Mr. Sinha said other artists gave similar feedback. Out of the 200 artists Chlorophyll reached out to, 50 have signed up so far. “They are saying it’s a great way for them to give back.”

For Ms. Dhingra too, the greatest draw was that she would play a part in ending hunger, which has been her life goal. “Through this project, I am realising how much of an impact even a small act of humanity can have.” As much as Le15 wants its guests to enjoy their food, “we would also like to urge them to spare a thought for those who aren’t able to afford even a single meal.”

Food and art, she believes, can create magic when they come together. “When buying a plate, not only are you contributing to a bigger cause, but the plates are also beautifully centred around a theme of nostalgia. We hope this collaboration leads to a bigger impact,” she said.

A quarter plate for childhood

Conversation starters

Le15, she said, has received a positive response from customers about the look and concept of the plates. More than anything else, the plates evoke curiosity. “’It’s nice, but why is part of it empty?,’ they ask, and then you tell them one in four children is malnourished,” said Mr. Sinha.

Chlorophyll is also creating four custom series for corporates: for a startup in the financial space, an educational finance company, a public relations company and an event management firm. “We curate an artist and create a limited edition just for them. The profit goes to charity that the company is supporting,” said Mr. Sinha.

Among other plans is a workshop that mixes art and food. Participants will be served a fixed-course meal in sync with art, mostly comfort food that people had in their childhood. The proceeds from this will go to charity.

It is also planning at a digital initiative where artists will produce work on Instagram. The idea is to cultivate a community with a focus on how art can be used to make a social impact.

The response to the Quarter Plate initiative has been good, said Mr. Sinha. In just two weeks, they have sponsored 3,000 meals.

The first sale was particularly heartening. A staff member at Le15 bought a plate, saying, “It’s my sister’s birthday and she would love it. It’s such a good cause.”

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Printable version | Mar 25, 2020 8:46:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/a-quarter-plate-for-childhood/article29913656.ece

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