Aug 01, 2017 at 09:15

India is a country which is often marred by extremities. One of many is of food: while some have too much, several others can’t get themselves even a single meal a day. Many of us, who are fortunate enough, have often heard our mothers tell us, “don’t waste food, think of all the people who don’t have access to even that.” When a teenager witnessed food, that could feed many, being thrown into dumpsters, she decided to be the change that she wanted to see. With a small team of students from different schools of Delhi and several volunteers, Bani Kohli started distributing leftover food to the underprivileged of the city. Here is her story, in conversation with School LIVE

What is the story behind the foundation of Jai Jan?

It was the summer of 2013, when I attended a party for the Guatemalan National Day. At the end of the party, as I was walking back to my car, I noticed one of the caterers throwing out a perfectly edible-untouched plate of bruschetta. I asked him why, to which he responded that he had been directed to throw out all the leftover food, just as they do at their restaurants, due to legal restrictions. This was when I decided to distribute the untouched yet edible food, to the women and children on the pavements. I continued this through the summer, and later formalized an arrangement with the Lite Bite Food group.

How has Jai Jan grown over the years?

Jai Jan started with the Lite Bite Food group, and has now grown in volunteers and restaurants. We now work with 7 restaurants and companies that donate food, along with a large database of individuals that also donate food after a large wedding or party.

We also have 110 high school volunteers, and NGOs, that we have teamed up with. Jai Jan has also participated in initiatives with the American Embassy. We have expanded into NCR and are currently trying to expand into parts of Punjab.

How does Jai Jan work? Kindly talk us through the process

Jai Jan’s team of 5, collects food from different restaurants every night, after their last order, and visits nearby shelters/orphanages/underprivileged schools to distribute the food. We, on an average, feed about 200-400 people a night. Jai Jan tries to go to as many different locations as it can. Over the weekends, our volunteers join us in distributing food during the day.

Tell us about a memorable moment/incident when you felt proud of Jai Jan

I was on my way to school one day, when I happened to stop at a red light near a shelter Jai Jan distributes food at. As my car pulled up, a bunch of children came running up to me and recognized me. It made me so happy that Jai Jan was able to bring a smile

What role does the community play in the workings of Jai Jan?

Community is actually very important for us, if we aren’t supported by those around us, it becomes increasingly difficult to operate. For example, if the guards outside AIIMS hospital, or local henchmen, police etc. give us trouble, we find it very cumbersome to distribute food in that area. Also, the restaurant community is undoubtedly vital for our operations. And so are the people we are distributing food to.

How do your family and friends support you?

My friends and family have been Jai Jan’s backbone. They have unconditionally supported Jai Jan financially, emotionally, and socially. They have always reached out when Jai Jan has needed any sort of help, they try to get more people involved with Jai Jan, raise funds for us and even get more volunteers. It is very true, that if it wasn’t for my friends and family, Jai Jan would not be where it is right now.

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