A message from the CEO

The food bank organizations reaching the daily wagers in India during COVID-19

Dear Partner – In a statement to the U.N. Security Council last week, World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley shared that “due to the Coronavirus, an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020.” Approximately 400 million daily workers in India’s informal sector have been crippled by the nationwide lockdown instituted on March 24.  A survey of 11,000 of these workers conducted 21 days into the lockdown revealed that 50 percent of workers had food rations left for less than one day and 70 percent of workers had less than half of their daily wages for the remaining lockdown period. Although the government has mandated that these migrant workers receive wages during the lockdown period, as of mid-April, unfortunately 89 percent of workers surveyed had not received any wages. The report discusses the extent of hunger among migrants at length, including that of a group of workers in Bengaluru who said “We are eating only one meal a day to conserve the quantum of grain we have.” Food banking organizations in India are responding to this need.  Feeding India, an organization providing relief in more than 60 cities during this crisis, has a campaign specifically to provide relief to daily wagers, serving more than 1.2 million people weekly. From March 24 through April 22, the organization distributed more than 45 million meals through its weekly ration kits. No Food Waste, launched in Coimbatore in 2014 by Padmanaban Gopalan and two friends, provides 1.5 million meals in an average year. From the start of India’s lockdown on March 24 through April 27, No Food Waste has distributed 1.2 million meals. “This is nearly 15x our operations,” said Padmanaban. He continued, “Most of the people around me are daily wagers and middle-class families; more than the pandemic, they fear the loss of their livelihood and are much more worried about the future due to this global lockdown. Imagine a daily wager like a maid, flower vendor, street food vendor, tea vendor – I have never seen them facing such hard times.” The India Food Banking Network has expanded its reach from 14 to 25 cities and has been distributing ration kits and an increased volume of donated product. Yet, the overwhelming demand for food relief weighs heavily on all the food banks GFN partners within India. Jomy Joseph, Director of Bangalore Food Bank, acknowledged, “With our existing resources and the increased demand for support from community, we are not able to meet the [food] requirements. We are trying to bring in more resources. We have initiated a fundraising campaign exclusively for emergency food relief.” As Indian parents fear for their children’s lives, we know COVID-19 has created a hunger crisis for children across the world. According to this recent policy brief from the U.N., “368.5 million children across 143 countries who normally rely on school meals for a reliable source of daily nutrition must now look to other sources.” In an update last week, I mentioned our new partnership with the Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF). Alongside GCNF, we are laser-focused on supporting our member food banks as they deploy a myriad of ways to address child feeding. With the rapid spread of the pandemic and mandated school closures, nearly all food banks have had to adapt to reach children in their communities:
  • 66% of food banks with a child feeding program are reporting a decrease in number of students fed
  • 57% report a decrease in frequency of feeding
  • 40% report a decrease in size of rations
  • 40% report a decrease in the variety of food
As this partnership and our learnings evolve, we will continue to keep you updated. Our vulnerable neighbors around the world are impacted in ways we cannot even imagine. And that is why our GFN team has been working diligently to adapt and double down on our mission to alleviate global hunger by collaborating to develop food banks in communities where they are needed and by supporting food banks where they exist. Please keep visiting our COVID-19 response page and make sure you’re signing up for these regular updates.  Thank you for your commitment to this critical work.   My best, Lisa Moon President & CEO The Global FoodBanking Network