Lonely Planet Writer

Pakistan’s Robin Hood Army shares thousands of restaurant meals with the needy

Giving to the poor has always been a big part of life in Pakistan, but charity has a new hero, or rather heroes, in the form of the Robin Hood Army.

In Karachi, surplus food is collected from restaurants and given to the poor.
In Karachi, surplus food is collected from restaurants and given to the poor. Image by Wasif Malik / CC BY 2.0

Originally founded in New Delhi  in India, this volunteer charity has expanded its operations to Pakistan, collecting surplus food from restaurants across the country and sharing it with the needy. To date, some 350,000 people in poverty have been helped by donations from the Robin Hood Army, with thousands of meals collected from restaurants in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad by the Pakistan wing of the charity. The food on offer ranges from humble snacks from fastfood canteens to five-star meals from Pakistan’s top restaurants and hotels.

Poverty in Lahore.
Poverty in Lahore. Image by Lonely Planet

Charitable donations to the poor are religious obligation in Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and most other religions in the Indian subcontinent, so the Robin Hood Army is building on a tradition dating back to the earliest Asian civilisations. A key part of the Robin Hood Army philosophy is the notion of giving locally, with restaurants supporting the poor in their own communities, using food that would otherwise be thrown away and wasted.

The organisation was founded in 2014 by Delhi-ites by Neel Ghose and Anand Sinha and it now counts more than 3400 volunteers across India and Pakistan. The organisation has expanded partly thanks to a string of successful social media campaigns, which have hit a nerve in a society where the middle classes are beginning to ask moral questions about their high standard of living compared to the impoverished conditions endured by most people in India and Pakistan.