Going "beyond self" to cater to the hungry

A low guest turnout at a wedding, they attended, saw the caterer`s calculations go wrong resulting in massive food wastage.

Pune: A low guest turnout at a wedding, they
attended, saw the caterer`s calculations go wrong resulting in
massive food wastage. The seemingly commonplace incident
prompted a group of five friends to develop a network in the
city to ensure that excess food at parties goes to the needy.
They formed a group and aptly christened it "Beyond Self"
which is now bringing smiles on the weary faces of those
deprived of even one meal a day.

"We contacted various caterers and asked them if they
could cooperate in disposing of the excess food prepared at
big celebrations so that it could reach to the hungry and
starving in different parts of the city.

Initially, we were looked at suspiciously but slowly
began getting a warm response from people after they got
convinced of our mission.....", says Mahesh Mulchandani,
joined by his four colleagues-- Sainath Shetty, Madhu Thakur,
Dhiraj Chhabria and Tanvi Saksena-- who have varied job
profiles ranging from fashion designing to software

"We have now evolved a system by which the caterer
contacts us whenever a sizable excess food is left over at a
party. We put on our uniform-- a T-shirt with Beyond Self
logo-- and accompany the caterer`s men in a tempo, directing
them to identified pockets where those who really need food
live. They gather with their utensils as we sound them in
advance and the joy on their faces compensates for the time
and effort we put in ", he feels.
A remarkable feature of this " Beyond Self" mission which
is completing one year now, is the methodology employed by the
young professionals who underwent a three-day training in
preserving food when the time lag is a little longer.

A questionnaire is also given to the caterer recording
details of the timing of food preparation and the ingredients
used to ensure that the starving consumer gets unspoiled items
without posing any health problem.

"When the food is handed over to us, we make small
packages using silver foil paper. An effort is made to
identify genuine cases and we approach those who sleep at
railway stations, S T stands or pavements and whose empty
stomach touches their back. There are rag pickers and those
exasperated in the struggle for existence who are sometimes
pleasantly surprised at our sight and at times unable to
react," said Mahesh, his face radiating the joy of giving.

Although it is a five member "core committee" as they
call themselves, about hundred volunteers have now come
forward to join "Beyond Self" which is being supported by
Panchasheel foundation and students of Maharashtra State
Institute of Hotel Management and Technology.

"Our next step is to acquire proper cold storage
facilities to expand the scope of Beyond Self," Mahesh adds,
modestly satisfied with the present endeavour, a rarity in a
self-obsessed social milieu.


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