The Journey of Malleshwar Rao: From Child Laborer to “Don’t Waste Food” Foundation
From child labourer to techie and now feeding thousands of hungry people for free through the “Don’t Waste Food Foundation” in Hyderabad, Malleshwar Rao has come a long way.
Malleshwar was born in 1993 in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh but moved to Nagpur, where his father took care of their grandfather’s farm. In 1998 when heavy rains destroyed all the harvest on their farmland, their lives changed forever. The family sold their farmland and home to clear off the loans and moved to Nizamabad, Telangana.
Malleshwar Rao’s parents began to work as daily wagers. There were days when his mom would feed a small portion of Food to Malleshwar and his brother while she and their dad would fill their stomachs with water.
A Turn of Fate
At the age of eight, Malleshwar began to work in a local eatery earning a daily income of Rs 5 to Rs 10. He would often run away to play and soon lost his job.
Fate once again took a turn. Hemalatha Lavanam, a social worker passing by the area, picked up Malleshwar from the streets to study at Samskar Ashram Vidyalayam. Co-founded by Hemlatha and her husband, the school was where children of poor parents, sex workers, orphaned children, and children from juvenile homes lived and learned.
In 2008, after the death of Hemalatha, the school shut down, and Malleshwar had to return home. Malleshwar completed Class 10 in 2009.
Back home, after being a daily wager, Malleshwar finally got a job at a naturopathy ashram. He worked at the ashram for about three years and passed Class 12 exams with the help of the books the patients’ families gave him.
In 2012, he got admission to Siddhartha Institute of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad, but the struggles continued. For two months, he was not allowed to attend lab sessions because he did not have money to buy an apron, drafter, and record books.
With little choice left, a young and determined Malleshwar decided to secretly work as a waiter only to afford the material needed for college.
One evening after serving Food at a function, he realized that most of it got discarded after everyone, including the staff, ate. Malleshwar gathered enough courage to ask for leftover Food, and he got it! That night he worked hard to make and distribute 800-900 food packets.
At that moment, Malleshwar knew he had to do something about all the Food being thrown away!
“Don’t Waste Food” Foundation
In 2012, Malleshwar and his friend Chakradhar Goud launched the Don’t Waste Food initiative. They began to collect extra Food from hotels and parties and feed hungry mouths.
In 10 years, the non-profit Don’t Waste Food Foundation has reached over 10+ cities and impacted over two crore people. It provides meals to 9,000 persons daily, including 500-2000 in Hyderabad, depending on the contribution of the donors.
A Long Journey
Despite the many hardships, Malleshwar Rao has come a long way. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his flagship program ‘Mann ki Baat’, even appreciated Malleshwar Rao for setting up the Don’t Waste Food Foundation.
Malleshwar also works as a curator for TEDx Talks (Delhi). The 29-year-old has won several awards, like the Indian Youth Icon 2018, the Gaurav Award 2019, and the Son of the Soil Award 2019. He also carries forward the cause of his mentor Hemlatha who toiled extensively to eradicate the Jogini system in Nizamabad. Malleshwar has also founded a group called ‘Friendly School’ that teaches around 4,000 slum children across 16 cities in India.
For Malleshwar Rao, it is simply, “No one will sleep hungry. I do not want to break this chain of kindness. Someone was kind to me once. That is why I am giving it back.”
To donate food log on to: https://dontwastefoodfoundation.org/ or call Malleshwar Rao on cell phone: 7207103539