The generosity of Mumbai has found a wonderful new outlet in the form of 3 community fridges that have come up since January, in the western suburbs and are consistently stocked up with food for the needy.
As more and more citizens are motivated to GIVE, we speak to Dr. Kshitij Mehta and Adv. Gopal Hegde, residents of Versova who, along with some like-minded friends set up the first such refrigerator and are now supporting others to install similar ones in their vicinity.
How have citizens responded to this idea? What do people usually keep in the fridge?
We were inspired when we learned that someone in Kerala had installed a fridge in front of the hotel and that the excess food generated in the hotel was being kept in the fridge. That made us think of the possibility of a community fridge wherein the food from different houses and restaurants can be stored in the fridge. We had seen many people throwing away the excess food and at the same time, we have seen many people going to sleep without having had a decent meal.
The intention: In order to avoid wastage of such food and also serve a social cause of providing food for the needy we thought of this concept of a community fridge were we first required to locate a suitable place for installing such a fridge. Simultaneously we were also required to find out the availability of the fridge. After scouting for a suitable place in the nearby locality we came upon an area which is next to Vatteswar Shivji Temple at Seven Bungalows. Fortunately for us, the trustees responded positively and agreed to locate the fridge in front of their office. Our hunt for the fridge ultimately was fruitful and we could locate a fridge which met our requirements and after modifying the fridge to suit our requirements like having a glass door with glass panels we finally installed it at Vatteswar Shivji Temple, Seven Bungalows on the 15th of January 2017.
The first few weeks: Initially, when we had installed the fridge there was a lukewarm response from the public as they were not aware of the existence and purpose of which the fridge was installed. In the beginning, we ourselves were required to store food in the fridge three to four times in a day. Gradually. we started getting inquiries and a response from the people in the vicinity including some from one or two hotels around the area. Eventually, the people started depositing the excess food generated in their houses and many kept fresh foods on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries etc.
After a month or two of installation the response from the people increased tremendously and as of today, more than 150 people get their daily requirement by visiting this fridge. Nowadays different items are being kept in the fridge like rice and dal, roti, vegetables, fruits, ice creams, packets of milk, Lassi tetra packs etc. Only vegetarian foods are permitted to be stored in this fridge.
You inspired other citizens and now a 2nd fridge has been installed just off the Andheri link road. How did that happen?
We started getting inquiries from people from as far as Lokhandwala, Oshiwara, Malad, Juhu Beach. They showed their inclination to install similar type of fridge in their areas. We have also formed a group for monitoring the working of the fridge and one of our members Preeti Khurana was able to identify a place at Lokhandwala and on the 18th of May, the second fridge was installed with the same concept at Mourya Estate, off Andheri Link Road, Near Punjab Grill.
Less than a week later, on May 23, youth icon Aditya Thackeray launched the 3rd community refrigerator at Andheri (East).
What are your thoughts 5 months later?
We have successfully achieved what we set out to do as there is a great response from the members of our society. One of the prominent features underlining our concept is that we respect the persons who come to avail of the food and in this regard we expect the needy individual to open the fridge and pick up what is desired by them.
No permission is needed to be obtained by them to open the fridge and pick up the food which is kept in it. The needy here come with a sense of dignity as they serve themselves from the fridge and the person taking the food does it as a matter of right without being told what or how much to take. Each person then feels it his obligation to take what is only required by him and nothing more.
If anyone wants to launch a similar fridge in their neighbourhood how do they connect with you?
Anyone interested in launching a community fridge on a similar concept in their locality may feel free to contact Adv. Gopal Hegde, President or Dr. Kshitij Mehta Secretary of Versova Welfare Association who shall be more than happy to provide them logistics support in this regard and also share their experience.
Adv Gopal Hegde – Mob. No. 9820352933
Dr. Kshitij Mehta – Mob. No. 9819847253