Many of us feel upset when we see the poor and needy begging for something as basic as food. But how many of us actually care enough to come up with long-term solutions. Ayyamittu Unn, a community fridge project has been started by 34-year-old Orthodontist, Dr Issa Fathima Jasmine, a month ago outside the Besant Nagar Tennis Club. It is hard to miss as there will always be a small group of people around it either donating or utilising it. If you stand beside the fridge for a few minutes, you will be surprised to find the number of happy smiles it has managed to initiate. The giant industrial fridge has a capacity to hold lots of food. Also beside the fridge, there is a cupboard with five shelves where one can donate clothes, books and footwear.
Dr Issa Fathima started this fridge as a personal project as she wasn’t sure about how people around would take it. But soon she started receiving a positive response from people around her. So soon she started the community fridge under the banner of The Public Foundation and decided to call it Ayyamittu Unn. “All of us waste so much food, clothes, stationary and footwear. One can try and share them with lesser fortunate ones. It can bring hope and happiness into the lives of many. Ayyamittu Unn is intended to address the need of such individuals and spread the joy of sharing and caring,” she says. If you are curious about the meaning of its name which is a phrase from the evergreen poetry collection Aathichoodi by poet Avvayar, which can be roughly translated as, ‘share the food with the needy before you eat’.
While many of us might not be able to take out time and donate food and clothes to orphanages, old-age homes, etc even if we want to, the idea of community fridge comes as a great option. It takes a few minutes to just stop by and donate what we want to. “I would often hesitate to ask the needy if they want food. I felt that they might take offence. This fridge is a great means to ensure you can help the less-fortunate without hesitating,” she adds. People are asked to label their food before donating and there is a logbook that keeps a track of every item put in the fridge — from fruits to cooked items. They are also required to write the preparation and expiry date of the items they are donating.
A security guard is assigned to safeguard the fridge and keep an eye on the expiry dates of food that comes in. The fridge is open all the days from 7 am to 9 pm. There is also a log book to keep a record of all donations.
Dr Issa Fathima is planning to start community fridges in different parts of Chennai.