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A farm to labourer plan that saved both

Updated on: 27 December,2020 12:48 PM IST  |  Mumbai
A Correspondent |

Restaurateurs Alex Sanchez and Mallyeka Watsa, collaborated with social entrepreneur Ruchi Jain to source fresh produce from small scale farmers.

A farm to labourer plan that saved both

Chef Alex Sanchez and restauranteur Mallyeka Watsa collaborated with Taru Naturals for The Farm To Table relief. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Alex Sanchez, 36, Mallyeka Watsa, 33 and Ruchi Jain, 34
Co-owners of Americano; Founder, Taru Naturals

The beginning of the lockdown was a difficult time for restaurateurs Alex Sanchez and Mallyeka Watsa. "When we first closed Americano in late March, we had barely completed a year of operations. It was hard to shut the doors, not knowing when we would reopen again, and our overall feeling about the state of the world was more or less pessimistic. We decided that we needed to change our outlook and focus on doing good for others," says Watsa. Weary of making a blind donation, her partner Alex says, "I wouldn't know if those funds would be used efficiently and effectively. We were prepared to make a sizeable donation on behalf of Americano, but we wanted to do it in a way that would make a meaningful impact on the lives of others. That is when I connected the dots: on one hand farmers had a surplus of food which they were unable to sell, and, on the other hand, there was mass food scarcity in communities all across Mumbai. I took the idea to Ruchi Jain of Taru Naturals, and she helped the idea come to life."

Together, they started The Farm to Table Relief Fund, to help bring produce from small-scale farmers in Mulshi, Hadapsar, Osmanabad, Shindewadi, Uruli Kanchan and Palghar, and supply it to those in need—like the labourers in areas such as Govandi, Mankhurd, Dharavi and Worli who were out of work. They did this through IAHV (International association for Human Values) and its volunteers who worked from a school in Dharavi. Later, Chef Ranveer Brar got involved in the communication and the logistics of arranging a truck of rice from Alibaug.

Ruchi Jain of Taru Naturals was the backbone of the Farm to Table Fund Relief. Pic/Sameer MarkandeRuchi Jain of Taru Naturals was the backbone of the Farm to Table Fund Relief. Pic/Sameer Markande

All proceeds went towards empowering farmers, while also supplying food to labourers who were unable to provide for themselves during the lockdown. How it differed from simply purchasing sustenance kits for families in need, was how the food to make the kits was sourced. "Through Ruchi, we were able to access thousands of small farmers and purchase produce directly from them," says Watsa.

Sanchez adds, "We control purchasing, transport and distribution. This is essential to ensuring that every single rupee has maximum impact. By taking everything into our own hands, we could make sure we helped as many people as possible. We would be bargaining with truck drivers for Rs 500 here, Rs 1,000 there, because those savings could help feed another three families."

Sanchez and Watsa agree that this collaboration taught them critical lessons about community. "Every little action has the potential to become a movement."

Jain says that though the lockdown is over, the fund is still active and the team is continuing with distribution. "It will live on and continue to go towards helping farmers in distress and families in need." Now that Americano has reopened, Sanchez and Watsa have passed on the reigns to Jain. "Ruchi really is the backbone of this fund and her work on the ground continues to be a tremendous source of inspiration for us," adds Sanchez.

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