A couple in Plano saw the need to fight hunger in North Texas, and their rallying cry of "Hunger Mitao" is now mobilizing others to do something good, too.
"This is not an effort of Raj and Anna. This is an entire Indian American community stepping up in the spirit of give where you live and making a difference," explained Raj Asava as he talked about the mission to feed people.
He and his wife, Anna Asava, left the corporate world several years ago and now focus their energy on a nationwide grassroots movement they started called "Hunger Mitao," or wipe out hunger.
"For some reason, we always thought the need was highest in emerging countries, third world countries. Clearly, America, Land of Milk and Honey and plenty could not be a country where there would be need as basic as hunger," Raj Asava said. "About six years ago, we learned about the hunger issue right here in North Texas. When we found out 800,000 people in North Texas don't know where their next meal is coming from, Anna and I said, we need to do something about it. And that's how we started Hunger Mitao."
That's the name you'll see on one of the trucks North Texas Food Ban in Plano uses to collect and donate food. The opportunity to co-brand is a $150,000 commitment but Raj Asava says the Indian American community stepped up.
"The truck came around and everybody had goosebumps because they saw their effort. It was so tangible. It was right in front of them, like oh, wow. We made this possible," said Anna Asava.
Last weekend, Hunger Mitao along with Sewa Dewali and more than 80 local organizations stepped up again by donating enough food for more than 50,000 meals to serve North Texans.
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"We created Hunger Mitao to be a movement. It's a movement that's going forward through volunteers and creating awareness in the Indian American community about the need for them to engage," Anna Asava said.
The Hunger Mital model has been embraced by Feeding America and other food banks across the country. What started at North Texas Food Bank now exists at Tarrant Area Food Bank and in Atlanta, Houston, Michigan, New York City, Seattle with New Jersey in line next.
"Four years since we launched Hunger Mitao, we have already crossed 40 million meals we have enabled across the country; 12 million meals right here in North Texas," Raj Asava said.
The Asavas are putting into practice a lesson heard years ago from a scholar in India. Life is lived in three stages: learning, earning and returning.
"With that in mind, Anna and I both felt we are in the returning stage. It is not just funds. It is returning our experiences, our learning, our connections, our network for the betterment of the next generation," Raj Asava said.
Last year, the Asavas pledged $1 million to Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization.