Youth-led feeding campaign spreads across Nepal

The 100's Group has been feeding 600 people every day at Khula March for the past five months from donations. Photos: Ansu Yadav Facebook

Ansu Yadav’s food bank campaign seems almost to be inspired by Karl Marx’s famous axiom: ‘From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.’ 

But Yadav is no communist, he is just trying to do his bit to lend a helping hand to thousands of Nepalis who have lost their livelihoods, and have no other way to feed themselves. 

Just like Nepal’s youth stepped in after the 2015 earthquake to provide food and shelter to survivors of the disaster, Yadav is among young Nepalis who are trying to do what the government should be doing to help those left vulnerable by the Covid-19 economic crisis.

The concept of the food bank is simple: those who have the ability deposit food and other essential items, and the neediest are free to take them. His campaign is has been feeding 600 people every day in Kathmandu Valley since April, and 1,000 plus across the country. 

The Simara Food Bank in Bara district was inspired by the 100s Group in Kathmandu that has been feeding 600 people every day for the past three months.

“Initially it was just me using some of my pocket money, but the idea spread quickly through social media and other friends and volunteers stepped in,” says Yadav who was a student at the Nepal Engineering Campus and has named his growing campaign the 100's Group.

On days when the donations are not enough, Yadav has to buy what is needed to prepare meals at his home in Baneswor. His team then dons PPEs and transports it to the Khula Manch in out-of-work Safa Tempos to distribute it in paper or leaf plates to hundreds of people who are hungry because they are stranded in Kathmandu with no source of income. 

Five months after he started, Yadav’s feeding campaign has also expanded to Siraha and Banke districts where volunteers are carrying the work forward. This week, the 100's Group is collecting food and relief for the 30 believed killed in Sunday's landslide in Sindhupalchok.

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The idea has also spread to Baglung and other parts of Nepal.

Catching wind of the project’s success in Kathmandu, the municiaplities of Morang district in the eastern Tarai have also replicated the campaign, and are currently feeding more than 3,000 daily wage earners. 

Members of the Nepali Congress-affiliated Tarun Dal in the Kebari Rural Municipality  organised their own food bank from 22 August till 1 September, and helped feed 1,400 of the most vulnerable local residents packaging 2kg of rice, 250gm of soybeans, ½ litre of cooking oil and a packet of salt that they got from donations. 

“We started out distributing food at the municipality, but after finding out that most locals were unaware of our relief effort, we began distributing food in every ward,” reports Pappu Shah, a local volunteer in Kerabari. 

In Sundar Haraincha municipality local youth set up their own food bank to help 1,000 families in more desperate need. The initiative was supported by 35 local residents who made donations in cash and kind. Each family got a package of food to last a week. 

“Lockdown restrictions may have eased, but our daily wage earners are still struggling to earn money. We had to continue our campaign to ensure that they had something to eat,” explained volunteer Prakash Shrestha. 

The Food Bank in Birat Chok of Morang district uses items donated by local household for those who have lost their livelihoods.

Yosa Guragain, a member of a local women’s volunteer club in Itahari, believes that her community’s food bank has become a self-sustaining cycle for relief during the lockdown for some 650 local families. 

“Us volunteers just serve as the link between those who want to help and those who are in need,” she explained. “And the assistance is self-sustaining because it is local, and the better off are willing to help struggling families as long as the need is there.”

The slogan ‘हुनेले दिएर जाऔं, नहुनेले लिएर जाऔं’ and the altruistic concept has gone viral, as it were, because young Nepalis across the country who want to help have latched on to the idea. Recently, local groups in Baglung, Bara, and Palpa have also established food banks by mobilising local donors. 

The Baglung Kalika Leo Club assisted 300 families for five days, and in Palpa’s Rampur Municipality youth clubs raised money and food to provide for 500 families. “Those with enough food at home helped those who did not have enough, and the local government also chipped in,” said Homanth Neupane of Rampur Municipality. 

Indeed, in many places local governments and elected representatives have been forced to also set up food banks after seeing the young people in their locality spring spontaneously into action.

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Sita Dungana is vice chair of Gajuri Rural Municipality of Dhading district, and her office was one of the first to start an effective food bank initiative from the local government level. The municipality is located along the Prithvi Highway and there are hundreds of day labourers here who have had no income for the past six months. 

Most of the donations are from households, not from aid agencies or non-profits, and here it was the municipality, and not youth volunteers, that first took the initiative. Households with more members get more rice and food items than smaller ones, so it truly follows the concept, ‘to each according to their need’.

 “All of us elected representatives collectively agreed that our first priority would be to keep daily wage earners fed. Our food bank is supported by better off community members, but also by the local government,” she explained. “It makes me very happy that this spirit of helping those in need has spread.”

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Watch video of sita Dhungana, vice-chair of Gajuri rural Municipality on the Prithvi Highway, which also raises donations in cash and kind from better off households, supplements it with aid from the municipality and helps feed those without daily age income.

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