In Chester County, Pennsylvania, Diwali Food Drive is providing emergency food to neighbors in need this Diwali.
Diwali, the five-day Hindu festival of light, does not involve an explicit religious obligation to feed the hungry during the holiday. But for Diwali Food Drive founder Kiran Nukiranti and his community, the spirit of Diwali is best celebrated by helping local people in need.
Nukiranti explains that Diwali Food Drive hopes the spirit of the holiday will inspire volunteers in their community. “Diwali is all about sharing and caring, so you’re trying to inculcate the tradition of Diwali to a younger generation—teaching a younger generation about giving.”
To run the food drive, the initiative raises funds and collects food donations to feed communities throughout Chester County. What started as a drive collecting less than a metric ton of food on Nukiranti’s driveway in 2012 has grown each year. Today Nukiranti estimates that they bring in about 30 metric tons of food.
Running the annual Diwali Food Drive has also become a community effort. According to Nukiranti, it has done so successfully because everyone has the same goal. Every Diwali Food Drive donor and volunteer believes in the power of being a part of a community. “You belong to a place and a place belongs to you only when you start taking care of the plate,” Nukirantit tells Food Tank.
When the unemployment rate in Chester County rose above 11 percent in April as a result of COVID-19, Diwali Food Drive sprang into action. The organization rallied its supporters to partner with businesses and provide pizza and other food safely to community members.
Diwali Food Drive has also expanded its support nationwide. Through volunteers at 14 university food pantries across the country, their Driveway to Nationwide initiative is helping address food insecurity on college campuses.
To celebrate Diwali, Diwali Food Drive also sponsors an annual fireworks display. The festivities highlight the joy of supporting their community, so when Diwali Food Drive’s supporters come together to celebrate their accomplishments, “We all know that this is the reason why we do this,” Nukiranti tells Food Tank.