Life in Kudla received the following article from Sri Sanandana Dasa of the Akshaya Patra Foundation in Kudla.
Created as a not-for-profit, the Akshaya Patra Foundation strives to fight issues of hunger and malnutrition for school going children in India. What started as a pilot project in five schools in Bangalore, feeding 1,500 has now exponentially evolved and developed into a mammoth endeavour reaching out to 1.5 million children in 12,652 Government and Government aided schools and anganwadis in 26 locations, across ten states in India. Today, Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest NGO-run school meal programme.
Genesis of Akshaya Patra Foundation
The genesis of The Foundation is born out of a story of compassion. Looking out of a window one day in Mayapur, a village near Calcutta, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, saw a group of children fighting with stray dogs over scraps of food. From this simple, yet heart-breaking incident, was born a determination that ‘no child within a radius of ten miles from our centre should go hungry.’ It is this inspiration that helped in laying the foundation blocks of The Akshaya Patra Foundation as it is today.
The Food and Agri Organisation presents the following statistics:
- Out of 794 million hungry people across the world 195 million are in India
- About one fourth of the undernourished in the world are from India
- The World Bank report on health and nutrition says the underweight children are the highest in India and double than the Subsaharan Africa
- In India about 12 million children are forced to labor work
Hence Akshaya Patra has born out of a sense of compassion.
We believe that God didn’t create hunger but has provided sufficiently for our subsistence. Rather we created the hunger situation and hence it is incumbent that we close the loop by God’s grace and our efforts combined together by the compensating force of compassion.
Salient Features of the School Lunch Programme
The Akshaya Patra school lunch programme is child-centric and addresses Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 1, 2 & 4). It works in a public-private partnership with the Government of India and other State Governments. Akshaya Patra’s centralised kitchens have complex gravity flow models that can cook close to 6,000 kilos of rice, 4.5 to 5 tonnes of vegetables and 6,000 litres of sambar in less than five hours. The roti making machines in the North Indian kitchens can churn up to 60,000 rotis in an hour.
Quality is maintained to the last mile in all the Akshaya Patra kitchens. Thirteen of Akshaya Patra’s kitchens are accredited with certification of ISO 22000:2005 for excellence in Food Safety Management System (FSMS). Akshaya Patra has also implemented Supplier Quality Management Systems (SQMS), in the pre-production process to offer quality food to our beneficiaries.
Akshaya Patra’s meals served are in strict compliance with the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for children. The menu is designed in such a fashion that children automatically get their daily intake of fresh vegetables, dairy products, cereals, beans, legumes and oils imperative for increasing nutritional levels. Milk and curd is also served to beneficiaries along with fruits and sweets on special occasions that act as an incentive to their daily meals.
Akshay Patra Mangaluru
In Karnataka, the foundation reaches out to underprivileged children in Bengaluru, Hubli-Dharwad, Ballari, Mysuru and Mangaluru. The centralised kitchen at Mangaluru started operations in December, 2004 and since then it has continued to benefit thousands of children in and around Mangaluru with delicious wholesome meals every school day. Currently Akshaya Patra Mangaluru has 18,602 beneficiaries in 139 schools under its fold. “We are looking forward to scale up our service to 50,000 children shortly,” says the President of the foundation and ISKCON, Arya Samaj road, Sri Karunya Sagar Dasa.
Beneficiaries of Akshaya Patra
Since childhood, Ramesh has aspired to become a physical trainer and he gives all the credit to his brother who is currently serving in the Indian Army. “If I get a chance to join the army I will, but as of now I want to join a physical training course after school and become a PT master in school. I hope I come back to this school and start training students here,” adds Ramesh. He is appreciative of the meals served to him every school day. He is particularly fond of the pulao (fried rice) and says it’s his favourite meal.
Just like Ramesh, Moiz is another such beneficiary of Akshaya Patra who has benefitted immensely from the meals. The UBMC Higher Primary School is located on the serene and well-kept premises of the Bockkapatna church in Mangaluru. Bockkapatna is located close to the sea and is home to many middle class and low income families. “Most of the families are predominantly engaged in fishing and selling of vegetables. Their main source of income is from fishing, while other families tend to take up daily wage jobs,” says Mrs. Monica, the headmistress at the school. Monica has a long history with the school. She has 37 years of experience as a teacher and has been at this school for 32 years. With an average strength of 34 students in the school, the enrolment is balanced with a few sporadic dropouts. But this doesn’t deter Monica and her three assistants from focusing all their attention on educating the ones coming to school. “The fact is all of them like coming to school. The academic performance has also been up to the mark. We have good teachers to take care of them and that is important,” says Monica.
We then met 9-year-old Moiz, a standard V student at the school. “When I grow up, I want to become policeman and catch robbers,” he says. Despite his shy disposition, when asked about his aspiration to become a policeman, he still has a clear vision of what he wants to become.
As an Akshaya Patra beneficiary, Moiz regularly eats the mid-day meals and tells us that he likes the sambar. “I like the sambar because of the potato. I feel healthy when I eat vegetables,” he says. Even Monica says the Mid-Day Meal Programme run by Akshsya Patra is praiseworthy and she tells us why. “Before, we didn’t receive any mid-day meals, which resulted in many of the student returning home to eat lunch. Some of them didn’t return to class. Now that Akshaya Patra is providing meals they stay in school and attend classes. They like the nutritious meals served to them which in turn make lessons more motivating for them. They are happy and they like the meals.” She concludes by telling us that this is a great initiative and it should continue catering to more children in schools.
So far, the foundation in Mangalore has served 34,454,946 meals.
Total Meals Served at a Glance
|TOTAL MEAL SERVED|
|Year||No. MEALS served each year since inception|
Today, Akshaya Patra runs the world’s largest school lunch programme with the steadfast support of the Government of India and philanthropic donors and well-wishers. Akshaya Patra is optimistic that with more helping hands reaching out, the organisation will soon be able to eliminate classroom hunger for India’s children. To that effect the Akshaya Patra Mangalore has recently negotiated a land deal to build a state-of-art hi-tech kitchen that can serve 50,000 children salubrious meals everyday. The foundation also looks forward to individual and community involvement to ensure a hunger free society for its children. Feeding hungry children is not charity but a social responsibility.
Awards and Recognitions
- Akshaya Patra’s Chairman Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa has been bestowed upon the Padma Shri in recognition of the distinguished service rendered by Akshaya Patra for the children of India.
- The Akshaya Patra Foundation has been conferred with the Nikkei Asia Prize in the Economic and Business Innovation category for its outstanding contribution towards the development of Asia.
- Akshaya Patra has was been awarded the ABP News Positive Award 2015
- The Akshaya Patra Foundation won the 14th Mother Teresa Award 2014 in the Best NGO category
- Gold Shield Award by Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) for five consecutive financial years for Excellence in Financial Reporting: Annual Report 2008-09; 2009–10; 2010–11; 2011–12; 2012-13
- Akshaya Patra is the first NGO to have got enlisted in the ICAI Hall of Fame and it is the third entry across all industries
- The foundation is ranked 23rd among Top 100 NGOs by The Global Journal in its 2013 edition.
Please note that it costs Rs. 1900 to feed two children for one year. If you would like to support the Akshaya Patra Foundation, call the numbers 9980830108 or 0824-2410722.