Even in 2022, a large population of India is devoid of healthy and nutritious foods.
Is “healthy eating” a concept that applies only to the privileged class? Radhika Guptaattorney and Harvard Law School graduate, in search of an answer in 2018.
“What motivated me was this idea that despite all this development in the world, food and nutrition, which are like the most basic human needs, remain unmet for millions of people. And that is something that is really unacceptable in today’s world. It was around 2017 -2018 and I didn’t know exactly what to do.” Radhika adds that she used to volunteer for NGOs and food distribution organizations.
with her husband, Amit Guptaa former colleague of “Teach For India”, decided to launch a program Foodshala Foundation. Fast forward to 2022, the Foundation has made it possible to reach a large number of people from low-income communities through community kitchens.
The Foodshaala team has also put great emphasis on spreading awareness among children about health and nutrition. Thanks to their efforts, the sprouts and fruits have reached the plate of many children from marginalized groups in our society.
While working with Teach for India, Amit realized that the problem of fast food consumption is very prevalent in our societies. For decades, kids have been spending money to buy food from stores that usually include items like chips and various burgers.
“Then I realized there were two main reasons for that. The first is the unavailability of healthy food. If one goes out into the community, they will just be used to finding all these unhealthy food choices,” he says.
“The other issue is that there has been no awareness among children, even among parents, about why they eat healthy food and why food is such an important component of their personal growth and development,” Amit explains.
First of all, the duo went on field visits, talking to children, parents, and teachers to understand the problem people face when it comes to food and nutrition.
To address the problem, the first idea we had was to set up community kitchens, where local people were employed and trained to prepare healthy meals. And we will sell it at affordable prices within the community to create a community-based structure, provide access to healthy meals for school children, and then can be developed later to raise awareness and so on. This is how it really started in October 2018, Radhika says.
From one of the community kitchens
However, community kitchens stopped after the pandemic as schools were closed. Even as schools began to reopen, midday meals were not allowed. But during the course, the duo realized that this was the best time to create awareness and empower people about nutritious and healthy food within their own homes within their budget.
“It is very important to bring a chain in the kitchen. Because if we supply the meal it is not always a solution. At the end of the day, when they come home, they again consume the same junk food or not eat at all because nutrition is something they completely ignore. So it is very important to empower them even They can make appropriate food choices for themselves,” Radhika adds.
This led to the creation of an online awareness program for children and parents that has worked well during the pandemic, the founders claim. The children were learning, responding positively, and creating recipes.
Radhika and Amit realized that if they wanted to make a long-term impact, awareness and behavior change was the way to go.
“So it was a very short-lived thing. But now with the outreach program, we are seeing even greater change in line with our vision of empowering communities to make a difference,” Amit says.
Today, as part of their vision, they go to schools and create awareness in a fun and interactive way. Raadhika shares that she does so in a structured programme, which includes about six workshops. Currently, they are associated with five schools in Delhi – NCR and around.
Under this, children are taught on various things; From the basics of food, why do we need food, what are the macronutrients, what sources do you get, how to read food labels while buying from abroad etc.
The Foodshaala team also offers hands-on activities, in the form of a game, where children are encouraged to form teams and compete against each other.
“We give them challenges to do at home; just go check in, click a picture of the dish you are eating, see how many colors it has, see what food you get, utensils, nutrients, or oil they use etc., and make them understand the concepts from During the things they see in homes,” Amit shares.
As part of the awareness sessions at Foodshaala, children reduced their consumption of fast food by more than 70%.
The foundation also conducts innovative crowdfunding programs to support its mission on platforms such as Milaap.
In a recent program by the Foodshaala Foundation in New Delhi, more than 12,000 children have been given nutrition kits during the pandemic. More than 20,000 milk cartons have been distributed to children of marginalized communities.
Foodshaala is now hoping to expand its programs beyond the Delhi-NCR region.