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3 Lakh Plates And Counting: An Engineer Who Quit His Career To Become Robin Hood Of Excess Food


Most people tend to get angry if they are woken up by a phone call in the middle of the night. But not 24-year-old Padmanaban Gopalan who is happy to take calls anytime. Taking calls ensures that at least 50-60 people will not go to bed hungry that night. And that matters much more to him than his sleep.

But who is Padmanaban, and what does he do?

An engineering graduate like most of this peers, Padmanaban however stands out as he is one of the toppers in his chosen field and turned down the offer of a well paying job. Instead he founded No Food Waste, through which he feeds the hungry population in India.

Growing up, all of us are taught that we shouldn’t waste food. Yet we end up doing just that. Padmanaban says,

On an average, 12-16 kg of food is wasted during every meal in a school. I realised that if that is the case in schools, the numbers will be even higher in ceremonies like marriages.

He is not wrong. With a little research, he found out that in a single marriage in Coimbatore, food that can feed up to 70-80 people gets wasted.

Where does the excess food go?

Padmanaban, who is fondly called the “Robin Hood of Excess Food”, followed the trail of excess food to find out what happens to the excess food. He was shocked to know that it was being grinded and thrown into the sewage. According to the UN, Indians waste 1.3 billion tonne of food every year when 870 million people starve all over the world.

To bridge this gap between excess food and starving population, he founded No Food Waste in Coimbatore.

How does No Food Waste work?

All one has to do is call a helpline, 9087790877 when there is excess food in a locality. No matter what the time is, someone from his team will come collect it, re-pack and give it to the people in need.

What started as a small attempt at feeding people in Coimbatore has now grown into an empire with many branches including one in New Delhi. So far, Padmanaban and his team has re-packed and distributed more than three lakh plates of food that is worth more than ₹ 1.5 crore.

For his contribution towards the society he was awarded Pollination Project Visionary Award in 2015. However the journey so far hasn’t been an easy one for him. His father doesn’t talk to him anymore and he was ridiculed every step of his journey for thinking he can feed all the starving people. But that did not stop him or discourage him.

Unlike most social entrepreneurs who want to keep expanding, Padmanaban will be more than happy to stop doing this. But it will be on the day when no human being has to go to bed with an empty stomach.