Indian American community led grassroots movement declares August as independence from hunger month
HungerMitao, Indian American community led grassroots movement of fighting hunger celebrated India’s Aug 15 Independence Day by declaring the month of August as independence from hunger month.
“We basically said just as August 15 is Independence Day of India, we’ve declared the whole month of August as independence from hunger month – HungerMitao Month,” said Raj Asava, co-founder of HungerMitao.
Read: HungerMitao enables 500,000 meals in 2022 Spring Food Drive (April 29, 2022)
Raj Asava and his wife Anna of Plano founded HungerMitao, which translates to “wipe out hunger,” five years ago when they learned of the rampant hunger in North Texas and across the United States, according to a media release.
It was a shocking revelation in part because of optics and cultural differences. Once the need was exposed, the Asavas took action. They rallied the Indian American diaspora in North Texas and around the country. This effort to increase awareness worked.
Five years later, the Indian American community has enabled 13 million meals in North Texas, and through a partnership with Feeding America and food banks in Fort Worth, Houston, Atlanta, New York City, Detroit, and Seattle, the HungerMitao movement has now made possible over 50 million nutritious meals for food challenged children, seniors, veterans, and families in need.
Read: HungerMitao launches 7th chapter in Michigan (October 25, 2021)
The tally went up again on Aug 20, when Fort Worth-raised entrepreneur, Hollywood producer, and philanthropist Niraj Bhatia came to town from California.
The Asavas and Bhatia’s parents are family friends and had talked with him about supporting HungerMitao. Convinced, he took the HungerMitao Million Meal Pledge — a HungerMitao program at Feeding America where $100,000 translates to one million meals for the food bank of their choice.
So, Niraj’s visit home was to make the donation and tour the North Texas Food Bank. The tour and the people he met got him thinking and he wanted to do more.
The HungerMitao team and NTFB staff had the large ceremonial check for $100,000 ready to go for a photo opportunity, then Bhatia dropped his surprise.
“Here on the spot, I’m going to double it,” Bhatia told the crowd. His announcement was met with a roar of applause. Bhatia then changed the ceremonial check to reflect his $200,000 donation.
Read: HungerMitao movement serves 10 million meals in North Texas (March 13, 2021)
“Love helping the community,” Bhatia said. “That’s also something that was extremely important for my dad to teach me growing up. Focus on your local community as much as you live.”
Anna Asava has also increased her own commitment to the mission by joining the NTFB board of directors. “I believe the board should reflect the community it serves,” Anna said.
“The HungerMitao movement has just been so phenomenal and the people in the Indian American community have really embraced the cause and the model,” she said.
The HungerMitao model that inspired the Indian American community to give locally is now being shared with other communities.
Nihao Food Bank Initiative, modeled after HungerMitao, is a Chinese American grassroots effort to raise awareness about hunger in North Texas and increase engagement among the Chinese American diaspora.
Talks are underway for a similar campaign scheduled to be launched in October for the Latinx community.
“People are not aware of the magnitude of the hunger issue that exists right in our backyard,” Raj Asava said. “We believe, communities must actively engage in local issues and be seen as an important part of the solution.”