More Than a Meal Ticket
THE AKSHAYA PATRA FOUNDATION IS IMPROVING THE LIVES OF CHILDREN IN INDIA – ONE HOT MEAL AT A TIME
above Children receive their daily meal from the Akshaya Patra Foundation
top right The Foundation employs over 6,000 people
bottom right The aim of the organisation is to encourage higher attendance – and improved focus – at school
most children are drawn towards medicine and engineering, Madan – one of the Akshaya Patra Foundation’s beneficiaries – is quite clear about his career ambitions. “I want to become an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and serve the country,” he asserts. A pupil at the Government Higher Primary School in Bengaluru, India, he believes that the midday meal he receives daily has been instrumental in his focus at school. “That one hot meal is sometimes my first meal of the day,” he says. “It helps me concentrate on what is being taught in the classroom.”
For Madan and the millions of other hungry children in India whom the Foundation benefits, this midday meal serves as an incentive to come to school. If not for the promise of a meal, these children may have otherwise been working to support their families.
According to UNESCO’S Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report (2000–2015), 1.4 million children between the ages of six and 11 are out of school in India. In being deprived of their right to education, these children are being robbed of their aspirations and the opportunity to better themselves.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation’s mantra reads that: “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger”. The organisation’s name is derived from the Akshaya Patra, a fabled vessel in Hindu mythology that was thought to harbour a never-ending supply of food. The foundation provides nutritious meals to children to fight classroom hunger. In doing so, it also tackles malnutrition and child labour.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation started in June 2000, feeding 1,500 children across five government schools in Bengaluru, India. Today, the Mid-day Meal Programme is the world’s largest school lunch initiative, operating in 30 locations across 12 states, feeding over 1.6 million children. In the pursuit of its mission to feed five million children every school day by 2020, it has taken enormous strides. In February 2016, for instance, the foundation served its cumulative two billionth meal.
This collective effort is owing to the tireless work of the organisation’s 6,000 employees. Venkatesh, one of the drivers at Akshaya Patra’s Ballari Unit, says: “Some of these delivery routes are really challenging, but that is what motivates me, because I know that at the end of these routes, there are hungry children waiting for food. That is enough to make me look forward to the next day.”
Akshaya Patra’s vision goes beyond its burgeoning school lunch initiative in terms of its broader impact. Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa, the chairman of the foundation, says: “It is this one wholesome meal that gives the underserved children an avenue to attend school, to receive education. Above all, it gives them an opportunity to attain the resources needed for a life that can accommodate not only the promise of a sustainable living, but also the aspirations of a respectable life.” ag
“It gives them an opportunity to attain the resources needed for a life that can accommodate not only the promise of a sustainable living, but also the aspirations of a respectable life”