ISU Researcher Examines Ways to Fight Hunger with Food Sharing Initiatives

                   Priyanka Jayashankar pictured in red, serving meals in India

AMES, Iowa – A faculty member from Iowa State University (ISU) is working to fight hunger in India, where it is estimated nearly 196 million people go without food every day, including one in four children.  She hopes her research will lead to the better use food that is currently going to waste and encourage corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. 

A case study, published in SAGE Business Cases Publications in January by Priyanka Jayashankar, Adjunct Assistant Professor for the ISU Seed Science Center and the Ivy College of Business, examined how such initiatives can positively effect food security, encourage food sharing, and instigate policies leading to more of the Indian population in need receiving a daily meal. 

“Unlike the United States, the concept of a food bank or food pantry is a foreign concept in India,” Jayashankar said. “In the U.S. there are different institutions that work to feed the hungry, there are more volunteers and there are more non-profits.” 

One exception is the India Food Banking Network (IFBN), established in 2010 to support the food security mission.  Jayashankar wanted to understand why, despite the adoption of the Indian Companies Act in 2013 which contained a CSR clause, there remains a reluctance towards charitable giving.  What she discovered was a fear of retribution.  

“The United States has the Good Samaritan Act which protects people and businesses,” Jayashankar said. “India doesn’t have anything like that for food donation.  It makes people afraid to donate food because there are no laws in place to protect them, if someone gets sick.”

Jayashankar is referring to the law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996 which encourages food donation by limiting liability of businesses and nonprofits which donate and distribute food to those in need.  According to the IFBN, there is plenty of food produced in India to feed the population; the problem is getting it to those who need it, especially women and children. This is not an issue unique to India, it is estimated 40 percent of fruits and vegetables and 30 percent of cereals produced worldwide are lost due to inefficient supply chain management.  

Jayashankar says the goal is to capture food that is left to waste on retail shelves and in warehouses due to expiration dates and excess production.  This is food that could be funneled to India’s fledgling food bank system to feed the hungry. 

Recently recognized by Iowa State University for her local sustainability work, Jayashankar says sustainability is also the key to distributing viable products to the people in India who need it the most. 

“Religious organizations have helped people share food for centuries, but it is not an organized effort,” Jayashankar said. “India lacks volunteerism; more structures are needed to bring the volunteers and the institutions together.” 

For Jayashankar, this subject hits very close to home.  She grew up in Europe and Southern India, where much of her family still lives.  She is encouraged by the change she is seeing there.  

"I used to work with social enterprises and non-profits in India as part of my research and volunteer work,” Jayashankar said. “I was amazed to see how like-minded individuals could work to create a better world.”


About the Seed Science Center: The Seed Science Center at Iowa State is a center of excellence nationally and internationally in seed research, education, technology transfer and international seed programs.




Priyanka Jayashankar, Seed Science Center & Ivy College of Business, 515-294-8110,

Cindy Hicks, Seed Science Center, 515-296-5386,