Raj Asava and Aradhana from NTFB in conversation with Anu Benakatti

Anu Benakatti Sep 11, 2019 1558 Views   0 Comments

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God can not appear to them except in the form of bread”. 
We recently learned that 42 million people--adults, seniors, veterans, and children in the USA grapple with hunger! We also learned that hunger no longer equates with homelessness. In fact, majority of the people struggling with hunger have a roof over their heads. Elements contributing to this issue are rising costs of living, people not making a living wage (under employment), job loss, illnesses, fixed budgets, etc. 

In North Texas alone, 850,000 people struggling with food insecurity are served by North Texas Food Bank (NTFB). Toppick media visited the North Texas Food Bank distribution center in Plano, Texas and had the chance to tour the facility. We also spoke with several dedicated volunteers who were sorting and packing donated nonperishable food to prepare it for delivery to the 200+ pantries that distribute it to families in need. 

North Texas Food Bank is a nonprofit hunger relief organization that serves the hungry in 13 counties of North Texas. Current statistics show that one in four children in our schools is food insecure.  Our kids go to school and have friends who are chronically hungry! It is unbelievable! Under the leadership of CEO Trisha Cunningham, NTFB enabled 77 million meals last year. Impressive, but the goal is to be able to enable 92 million meals by 2025. Yes readers, that is projected to be the need. Unfortunately, hunger is growing in North Texas almost as fast as prosperity. 

The wonderful state-of-the-art facility of Plano named “Perot Family Campus” was opened in 2018 with the help of a lead gift by the Perot family. In the Perot household, philanthropy was a priority. An 'X' marked on the curb outside of the Perot family home signified a pledge to feed anyone passing by who was hungry. The NTFB recently unveiled their own 'X,' a giant sculpture outside the new facility that tells the community that this is also a place where hungry people can get the help they need.


North Texas Food Bank has seen a surge of engagement from the Indian American community in the past couple of years. Food Bank and media is abuzz with “IAC” and “Hunger Mitao”. 

To understand this phenomenon, we met with Raj and Aradhana (Anna) Asava, founders of the Indian American Council (IAC) for Food Banks.

When Raj and Anna became aware of the rampant hunger issue in North Texas about 5 years ago, they knew they had to engage in the solution. They started donating, volunteering, and serving on leadership councils at NTFB. Their financial commitments kept growing, but they also realized that their contributions could only do so much. And they sensed a lack of hunger awareness in the Indian American community. So, in 2017, they launched a grassroots level initiative called the Indian American Council to engage the vibrant Indian community in North Texas. 

Their extensive corporate experience helped. They created the tag line “Hunger Mitao” (Wipe out hunger) and started conducting awareness sessions to generate awareness about the rampant hunger in North Texas and how people can engage with the food bank in various ways. 

With missionary zeal, the couple have made it their mission to mobilize and galvanize the efforts of the Indian American community around the important work done by the Food Bank. Raj and Anna explained the goals of the project and how the model works. It focuses on “Catalyzing and inspiring the Indian community to engage in helping fight the hunger issue. Secondly, it also aims to change the perception and image of the Indian American community, to be known and recognized for their generosity through the spirit of “give where you live”. 
People can engage in their own ways through the following avenues: 

· Become aware and own the issue of  hunger around us
· Volunteer at the food bank 
· Donate food
· Donate funds

The response from the Indian American community has been astounding!! In less than 2 years, the community has enabled 4 million meals, tons of donated food and thousands of hours of hands-on volunteering at the NTFB! Indian community members now look forward to volunteering on a regular basis; conducting food drives on special occasions over the metroplex; and raising critical funds needed by the food bank for their operations.

IAC calls the month of August a month for “Independence from hunger” in celebration of India's Independence Day. This year they established a goal to collect 25,000 pounds/$ of peanut butter. By the end of this campaign, the Indian American community blew past the set goal and has raised close to 30,000 $/pounds of peanut butter!

Dr. Martin Luther King's comment is so true, “Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, and any table, when man has the resources, and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will”.  Each one of us should take the responsibility to contribute to our best abilities towards “HUNGER MITAO” and make hunger in our communities a thing of the past. In Raj's words, “We may never be able to eradicate hunger, but let's make sure no one goes hungry”!

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