Feeding the hungry/needy is regarded as the best form of philanthropy in Hinduism.
The reason is that this is the only thing when one is satisfied,he refuses more, unlike money or anything else,be it wealth,assets…
Partaking what one is about to eat is the duty of a Hindu.
The Guests are called as Adhitis.
Here the term Adhiti indicates one who comes unannounced and preferably a stranger.
I have heard from my relatives that my maternal Grandfather used to look out every day , after he finished his Madyanika, for any one on the street, who looked hungry or a stranger;he would then inite them Home, offer food and give him Dhoti and Angavastra.
The food one offers to the adhithi should be the same as one is about to eat and not anything else.
Anna Dhana (Offering of Food) is most revered.
One is advised to offer food to People, preferably one who is learned in the Vedas and would Bless during Sraddha and on auspicious occasions.
There is also the procedure of offering food to God daily, called Naivedya .
Please read my post on Naivedya.
Some salient features of Anna Dhana.
One is advised to feed the animals and birds too.
Hinduism does not differentiate between men,animals and birds.
Everything in the world is a child of God.
Hinduism does not call even trees ,rocks mountains as ‘without Life’
Things in the world are shown to belong to either of these categories.
That which moves, with Consciousness, Chetana, or
Achetana ,that which,in our Perception do not possess Consciousness..
No classification as With Life or Without Life.
The habit is to set aside some portion of the food in the plate for th Dogs.
The practice of offering food to Crows before one eats is very auspicious because shastras declare that it satisfies the ancestors.
One is also advised to place a mixture of Rava and Rice mied with sugar for the ants.
There are five sacred duties of Man.
Brahma Yagnam,Deva Yagnam,Pithur Yagnam,Manushya Yagnam and Bootha Yagnam.
1.Rishis will be pleased in hearing the Saswara Vedic Chanting.
2.Devas will be pleased with the Homa performed.
3.Pithrus will be pleased with the Shraadha performed.
4.Adhithi (guests) will be pleased by the food offered.
5.The offering of Baliharanam will please Bhoothas.
The Adhiti is to be fed, preferably with Panchapaksha Paramanna.
The Pancha Bhakshyas are:
1.Bhakshya : (sweets like ladoo, Boli, etc.)
2.Bhojya: (rice, saambar etc.)
3.Lehyam: ( Pachadi, kojju etc)
4.Chohyam: (side items like Chitraannam, fruit salad, (desert) etc)
5.Paneeyam: (rasam, paayasam).
Smrithi states that the money can be spent in three ways. If such a person does not spend money on Daanam / annadaanam or bhogam (using it for his own happiness), the money gets destroyed. (naasham).
It reiterates that if you do not want to donate, or if you do not want to use it for your own happiness (righteous), and then the only alternative is the third i.e. money gets destroyed.
” Annadaanam Param Dhanam”-There is no greater dhanam than annadhaanam because of the contentment of the gruhastha in serving the food and the adhithi in consuming what has been served. In other material dhanam such complete contentment is not there.
Mathru Devo Bhava, Pithru Devo Bhava, Acharya Devo Bhava and Adhithi Devo Bhava – Taitreya Upanishad .
Parents are satisfied by the seva or service of their sons and daughters, Acharya by the Susroosha of his disciple and adhithi by the food served by the gruhastha. By satisfying as above the gruhastha is blessed with Saaswatha Brahmalokam.
While the duty of the Gruhastha is to satisfy the adhithi , the adhithi has also a duty in blessing the gruhastha.” Annadaatha Sukhi Bhava” – even if this is not said by the adhithi in words, it is implied.The Sukham prayed for is not the loukeeka Sukham but paramaarthika Sukham- – eternal bliss.
Th Adhiti may Blesss with Asservaatha mantra or at least Sree Varchasvam……or Sathamaanam Bhavathi..”
If a person cannot undertake the task individually,he can join a group where such an activity is conducted.