When Hyderabad, India-based businessman Azam Khan and IT specialist Khaled Sifullah realized how the novel coronavirus pandemic was going to affect India’s needy, they quickly sprung into action. Sifullah developed the software for an app called Free Ration, and Khan and Sifullah are using the app to help Indians across the country access food, a critical need as millions of daily-wage workers are kept from earning a living during a countrywide shutdown, said a press release.
“If we were going to help someone, we knew we would have to do it from a distance,” Khan said. “People would need food, but we could not go door to door to help them.”
Through the Free Ration smartphone app, people in need of food can fill out an application to get 600 rupees of food supplies. Those without a smartphone can call a toll-free number to give their information to staff at Free Ration’s call center. Free Ration partners with small local grocers to help beneficiaries get the food they need while also supporting local businesses, said the release.
As the coronavirus rages on, experts warn that a side effect of the virus could result in unprecedented levels of hunger and poverty. In India, the problem is particularly severe with nearly 80 percent of the workforce in the informal sector, noted the release, leaving these workers in a particularly vulnerable position. Many of these laborers have little to no savings and are forced to stand in line for limited government rations.
After the customer gives information about the size of the family, occupation, and medical needs, Free Ration locates a nearby store to supply the family with the requested rations. The local shopkeeper receives a message to create a ration pack for the beneficiary, who can pick up the pack or have it delivered.
Families with 4-5 members receive 600 rupees worth of food, and families with more than 5 members receive 1200 rupees; 600 rupees provides a family of four 3 meals a day for between 7-10 days.
Free Ration allows families to select whatever items they need from the store, added the release. Packs may include sanitary pads, over-the-counter medicine, water, milk, slippers, and other necessities in addition to food. Food can also be tailored to the palette of the family.
More information on Free Ration’s efforts for Indian Americans can be found at the Singh Foundation website. The phone number is 9606046818 or WhatsApp 9963748187.The Singh Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and U.S. donations are tax exempt.