Born in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, Malleswar Rao belonged to a family of farmers. His family moved to Nagpur, where they worked on his grandfather’s farm that was quite prosperous. However, heavy rains destroyed all the harvest on their farmland and their livelihood in 1998.
“My father had to sell all our property to clear off the loans, and we were literally on the streets,” Malleshwar tells SocialStory.
The family moved to Nizamabad, Telangana, where his parents had to work as daily wagers and would have just enough to feed the family on most days.
“On the days where my parents couldn’t earn money, they would somehow try to make little food for my brother and me, but would fill their stomachs with just water,” he shares.
Despite the many hardships, the 27-year-old is now actively working to curb hunger among the poor in Hyderabad and Rajahmundry through his non-profit Don’t Waste Food.
In fact, he is also helping people amidst the second COVID-19 wave by providing them with oxygen cylinders, rations kits, and cooked meals for those in quarantine.
In a conversation with SocialStory, Malleshwar shares how he started his non-profit in 2012 and the arduous journey that came with it.
Once while serving food at a function — where a splendid feast was arranged — he realised that most of the food is discarded after everyone, including the staff, ate.
“Knowing what it feels like to stay hungry and homeless, I didn’t want that to happen, so I requested them to pack and distribute the food in nearby areas,” Malleshwar says, who made and distributed 800-900 food packets.
Thus erupted the idea for his group, Don’t Waste Food, which he started with his friend Chakradhar Goud in 2012. It was registered officially in 2021 as a non-profit.
Sourcing foods from eateries, PGs, hostels, weddings, and other functions, Malleshwar distributed anywhere between 500 and 2000 food packets every day.
Before the Janata Curfew was implemented, Malleshwar gathered his team and distributed bread and other foods with a longer shelf life to over 8,000 people since hotels were to be shut down.
“Once the lockdown started, we used to help the municipality workers with buttermilk to beat the summer heat and meals during the day,” he says.
With the help of the donations, he could serve about 20,000 meals to the people every day. Besides, the group also distributed about 4000 food packets to dogs.
He also distributed tonnes of fruits to hospitals, migrants, and those at home in quarantine. Other donations such as 20,000 slippers and 50,000 masks, among other things, were also distributed to the underserved people.
Besides distribution, Malleshwar and his team also helped cremate over 180 bodies during the first wave, and are well-prepared to do it now if the need arises.
While oxygen was affordable last year, it costs about 10X now because of the increasing demand. Owing to the increasing demands, he is now actively procuring oxygen cylinders to help people in need.
Malleshwar’s efforts were recognised by many personalities, including actor Madhavan, Anand Mahindra, and Norwegian diplomat Erik Solheim. He was also mentioned on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat.’
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