Dabbawalas – Feeding the Poor of Mumbai
Dabbawala, the legendary lunch delivery system in Mumbai, India is known worldwide for its reliability. They have delivered lunch in dabbas (lunch boxes) prepared in customers’ homes to their offices for the last 125 years. Every day the Dabbawalas, which translates to “ones who carry the box,” collect lunch boxes from over 200,000 homes and deliver them to their customers’ offices, and then deliver the boxes back to their homes on the same day. These men have a reputation for battling all kinds of weather, floods and even riots to provide their services mostly on foot or bicycle.
Share My Dabba Initiative
A few years back, the Dabbawala Foundation started a new initiative for feeding the poor of Mumbai, in association with Happy Life Welfare Society, a nonprofit organization. The process is very simple: every customer is given stickers and whoever wishes to share their lunch puts a sticker on their lunch box. The boxes with stickers are separated and then distributed through a network of volunteers. As a result, tons of food that would otherwise go to waste every day reaches the needy on the streets with the help of the most efficient delivery system in the city. This is a small step, not a complete solution to the vast starvation problem. But it is a great beginning.
About 400 Dabbawalas have also started a Roti Bank, a campaign for feeding poor and starving people in Mumbai. They work with party planners and caterers to help reduce food waste that happens at celebrations and weddings. The Dabbawala distributes the food after their shifts from 6 to 9 p.m. each day, feeding the poor of Mumbai.
Apart from the above initiatives, the Dabbawalas are also brand ambassadors for the Clean India Campaign, a volunteer campaign to clean different parts of the city. The Dabbawalas have become an inspiration for many as they use their efficiency and skill to feed the poor of Mumbai.
– Tripti Sinha