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A Roti Bank collection box at Delhi’s Azadpur market. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
A Roti Bank collection box at Delhi’s Azadpur market. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

Roti Bank: Schoolkids help run food bank for the needy

Roti Bank, started in June 2015 by Raj Kumar Bhatia, Sudhir Behrani and friends in Delhi’s Azadpur vegetable market, collects and distributes basic meals for the underprivileged

Students of Modern Public School in north-west Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh have been bringing more lunch than they eat everyday for the past two years. No, they do not throw the extra food into dustbins before heading home; nor do they take it back to scolding mothers. Instead, the children give these extra food packets to the Roti Bank in Delhi.

The first Roti Bank, started in June 2015 by Raj Kumar Bhatia, Sudhir Behrani and friends in Delhi’s Azadpur vegetable market, collects and distributes basic meals for the underprivileged, needy or destitute. A casual labourer looking for a meal led the group of businessmen to think about what they could do to help. Within a few hours, they came up with an “unpolished" idea of keeping an empty fruit crate and using it as a bank for food for the needy.

“We went around the neighbourhood and asked families to cook three chapattis extra and give them to us with dry sabzi or pickle. The next day we had seven packets which we gave away. But by the third day, this had dwindled to about four packets," says Bhatia.

The food supply challenge is no longer there however, explains Behrani. On an average, Roti Bank gets 3,000 packets of food everyday in its 58-odd centres across India. Modern Public School itself supplies about 700 packets a day.

Roti Bank’s popularity has spread beyond the city, with individuals and groups replicating the model in their own neighbourhoods.Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
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Roti Bank’s popularity has spread beyond the city, with individuals and groups replicating the model in their own neighbourhoods.Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

“People also call to give us food to celebrate their birthdays or anniversaries. But sometimes it can be difficult for us to distribute this extra food, especially if it’s a huge number of packets. To balance the demand, we sometimes ask them to give it to us on Sundays, when schools are closed and we have less supply," explains Behrani.

Roti Bank’s popularity has spread beyond the city, with individuals and groups replicating the model in their own neighbourhoods. Some have retained the name, while some others have changed it (such as Sanjhi Rasoi, Khana Bank, etc).

“We are completely okay with people using our model or our names, as long as they are doing something to help those who need food," says Bhatia, adding that they don’t rely on social media but depend on word-of-mouth to spread the cause.

Lessons to make giving more engaging

Do not be rigid in your preferences. If people want to offer extra food on one specific day, accept it but indicate which day would work better.

Be clear about what your aim is and if your giving model can help more people when it is replicated, do not limit it. Schoolchildren are very encouraging, because they talk about it to their friends in their schools and other schools to perform similar drives. Talk to children and encourage them to think about giving.

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