More Than a Meal Ticket

THE AKSHAYA PATRA FOUN­DA­TION IS IM­PROV­ING THE LIVES OF CHIL­DREN IN IN­DIA – ONE HOT MEAL AT A TIME

Asian Geographic - - On Assignment - Text and Pho­tos

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.

While

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”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.