Imagine a scene where a group of children are fighting over scraps of food with a stray dog. It is very disturbing, isn’t it? This is a real story that took place in Kolkata where His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was moved by this incident in Mayapur. After this event, he was determined to make sure that no child within a radius of 10 miles from the centre goes hungry.
His determination sowed the seeds of The Akshaya Patra Foundation. It began feeding 1,500 children in five Government schools in Bengaluru in the year 2000. After the mandate from The Supreme Court of India in 2001, the NGO started implementing the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Programme. With these efforts, the Foundation aims at countering two problems — hunger and illiteracy. In 19 years of its service, it has fed 1.8 million children on a daily basis. Present in 52 locations spread across 12 states and 2 union territories of India, it carries out its cooking process from centralised and decentralised kitchens. Irrespective of the kitchen type, hygiene and safety is a top priority for Akshaya Patra.
The meals served as a part of the MDM Scheme adhere to the nutritional guidelines provided by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). To ensure that children gain the maximum benefit of these wholesome meals, locally palatable meals are served cyclically. The excitement of children during the lunch hour to see what is on the menu is heart-warming.
Here is what some children have to say about Akshaya Patra’s meals:
“I love Akshaya Patra’s meals. It fills my stomach and keeps me full throughout the day. Otherwise I would have been eating rice and pickles every day.”
- Vanaja, 7th Standard
“If it was not for the free meals, I would not have been studying today. I look forward to my meals eagerly every day.”
- Munna, 8th Standard
“I prefer my school meals. They taste better than the home-cooked food.”
- Kapil, 4th Standard
“I enjoy my school meals. My favourite food items are vegetable biryani, sweets and snacks.”
- Shravani, 9th Standard
“I did not know that I will get snacks and fruits along with the meals. It completes my meals. I can even take away the fruits to eat at a later time.”
- Mahesh, 7th Standard
Apart from working towards its core cause of feeding school meals to children, Akshaya Patra has always stepped up to help people during times of disasters. Presently, it is serving cooked meals and distributing grocery kits to the needy people in India amid COVID-19 crisis. The Foundation has served a cumulative of 8.2-crore meals to the low-income sections of the society. As on 8 September 2020, Akshaya Patra has served 4,74,30,724 cooked meals and supported 8,03,607 families with essential grocery kits. To continue its service towards mid-day meal beneficiaries, it initiated the Happiness Kits Programme to support nutrition, immunity, hygiene and learning. Akshaya Patra is currently distributing Happiness Kits in Bengaluru, Jigani, Hyderabad, Thane, Silvassa, Jaipur, Vadodara, Lucknow, Vrindavan and Guwahati, with the aim to reach other locations soon in a phase-wise manner.
You can be a part of this NGO by supporting its feeding initiatives. You can either donate to charity for its COVID-19 Food Relief Service, Happiness Kits Programme or towards the Mid-Day Meal Programme. Contribute generously because every bit of your contribution matters.