How You Can Tackle Global Hunger with Zero Donations: The Robin Hood Army at HBS

Kara Bakhshi. Contributor
Neel Ghose, Contributor


Did you know that, of the 800 million hungry people in the world, 82% live in countries with food surpluses? Or that one-third of the food produced around the world is never consumed? Or that, despite these figures, every 10 seconds a child dies from hunger?

The challenge isn’t that food is scarce, but rather the lack of sustainable channels for it to reach those in need. At HBS, many of us are motivated to help solve this problem, but can feel frustrated when we can’t find ways to contribute our time or donations meaningfully or to transparent missions.

The good news is there now is a way for HBS students to help make a difference around the world, even while based in Boston. Students can leverage their diverse professional and personal networks, as well as their entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving, to help a volunteer startup focused on global hunger – the Robin Hood Army – expand its efforts right here on campus.

What is the Robin Hood Army?

The Robin Hood Army (RHA), originally started in India, is an ambitious volunteer startup with a mission to beat world hunger, co-founded by HBS student Neel Ghose (RC, Section F). Through a passionate team, active support from the press, and a powerful social media platform, in three years the RHA has served food to 4.2 million people across 53 cities through a network of 12,000+ volunteers in ten countries. The food itself is sourced from restaurant donations of surplus food.

How has this been achieved?

A strict no-funds approach and a decentralized, hyper-local model has contributed to RHA’s success. Each country is comprised of local chapters, in which volunteers (“Robins”) – mainly young professionals and students – donate their time to distribute excess food from restaurants to people in need (such as the homeless and orphanages).  Robins typically scout for restaurants, persuade them to donate surplus food, and identify groups of people to distribute the food to. Each chapter runs regular food drives and is effectively self-managed in its efforts, but connected through a Whatsapp group to the overall RHA network.

RHA’s journey thus far

Usage of social media has directly contributed to the growth of the mission, through enabling connections with restaurants as well as providing a platform for the Robins to visually showcase their activities.

Next steps for the RHA at HBS

The medium-term plan is to scale the Robin Hood Army through the HBS community and establish local teams across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Currently the RHA serves 200,000 people per month – by the end of 2018, we aspire to take this number to 1 million through hyperlocal community-focused teams across the globe. This will still barely scratch the surface of the global hunger problem – as mentioned, there are 800 million people in the world who do not have two square meals a day. So far, the RHA has been fueled by passion and energy. Over the next year we will need to evolve beyond this to a data-driven, tech-enabled platform in order to expand seamlessly.

How can you help?

Like the HBS community, the RHA volunteer communities are extremely entrepreneurial and self-managed. At HBS we are ideally placed to contribute our combined networks to build scale and address hunger at a truly global level.

As the RHA looks to expand into the above new regions, HBS students can help by connecting us to locally-based young professionals. These individuals would be people who have the right intent, preferably an extensive local network and a strong bias for action. Please do reach out, if you have someone in mind who can help us take this initiative further, and help put an end to global hunger.

Kara Bakhshi (HBS’ 18) worked in banking in London and more recently at a renewable energy-focused startup before joining HBS. Kara interned at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York this past summer, and was previously a board member of Tara Arts, an Indian theatre based in Earlsfield, London. Now she is focused on the Robin Hood Army’s expansion efforts at HBS.

Neel Ghose (HBS’ 19) has worked in D.E.Shaw & Co and Zomato, an Indian unicorn startup. He has been a bit of a nomad and has lived across 5 countries setting up Zomato’s global operations. A passionate fan of cricket, Neel spends most of his time procrastinating with friends and working on the Robin Hood Army; he believes the RHA’s work is just 1% Done.