Akshaya Patra Kitchens give a healthy and nutritious start to school children

By auther pic. Abhisikta Dey

April 23, 2021

Akshaya Patra Kitchens give a healthy and nutritious start to school children

Akshaya Patra Foundation

Akshaya Patra Foundation, the Bengaluru-based NGO was formed in the year 2000 with the objective of eliminating ‘classroom hunger’ by implementing the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in the Government and Government aided schools. Research states that children drop out from schools due to hunger-related issues in the age group of 6-13 years. So the conception of this foundation was to serve hot and nutritious meals to them as this would be the main incentive for them to come to schools, so that no child in India is deprived of education due to hunger. With this aim in mind, this foundation initially served 1500 children in 5 schools, from where it has expanded its reach to 1.8 million children in 20,000 schools during the pre-COVID era. This initiative by the Foundation will ensure that every child in the Government school gets his basic right to education and can contribute well to the overall development of the nation.



During his professional tenure of 30 years with the Multinationals, Mr Venkat, the current CEO of the Foundation, was associated with Akshaya Patra as a philanthropist. The Founding Chairman of Akshaya Patra has been his major source of inspiration and while on his job transition, one donation drive during his stay at the ISKCON Bangalore Guest House changed the gear of his life, towards serving the society. Few motivational words with Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa, the President of ISKCON Bangalore and the Founder of Akshaya Patra Foundation inspired him to join the community of giving and caring since the last fifteen years, which has proved to be very gratifying.



The Foundation works on a public-private partnership model wherein huge deficits and hurdles were faced in the initial twelve years of its inception, as they did not have adequate reserves. Hence, maintaining the requisite quantity and funding was a major challenge.


The second challenge faced by the Foundation was to ensure the quality of freshly prepared, tasty, hot and nutritious meals as cooked meals are easily perishable. Since the Foundation works on feeding millions of deserving children fresh and nutritious meals at cost-effective prices every day, it is very difficult to ensure that the exact taste, quality, hygiene and palatability is retained.


The third challenge has been to ensure the timely delivery of cooked meals within the designated time, as most schools have the thirty-minute lunch break slot during the same time. Timely delivery of meals to an increased amount of 1.8 million children has become very cumbersome over the last few years.


These deficits were traded off by donations made by individual donors, philanthropists, CSR arms of several MNCs, trusts along with Government intervention. Initially, 75% of the total Government grants were meted out by the Central Government as against 25% from the State Government, though they were the main implementers of this program. India runs the largest school meal program and Akshaya Patra caters to about 1.8% of this population, which makes it the world’s largest school meal program.



However, few years back this proportion changed as 60% of these grants came from the Central Government as against 40% from the State Government, which also includes grains from the Central Government.Since the trusts, philanthropists, Corporates and the Government have been able to restore their faith in the commendable work done by the Foundation, it was easy to overcome several bottlenecks faced. Hence it was a classic example of a successful public-private partnership.



The pandemic brought education to a sudden halt as schools had to be shut. With schools being shut, providing meals would become an issue and so it was during these days, Akshaya Patra partnered with the Central and State Governments to ensure that the needy get ration and hot, nutritious meals to save themselves. So since March 2020, this foundation had served 121 million servings to the needy across states through their kitchens, which have been pegged at 56 as of now, while 15 are under construction.



The Foundation distributed grocery boxes and Happiness Kits for their mid-day meal beneficiaries in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Guwahati, Surat, Pune, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Thane etc. Each Happiness Kit was packed with nutritious food items, immunity boosters, hygiene kit and learning materials. These kits were distributed to boost immunity and health of the children as they would continue to receive nutritious meals amidst the prevailing crisis. This initiative also ensured that basic hygiene needs are met while they pursue with their learning during the lockdown. So far 9.63 lakh Happiness Kits have been distributed in 18 states and 2 Union Territories across the country.



In the years to come, Akshaya Patra’s main focus will continue to be on their flagship program whereby mid-day meals would reach millions of school-going children. They crossed a milestone of 3 billion cumulative meals in early 2019 and were felicitated by the Honourable Prime Minister in Vrindavan. One of the major task at hand is to penetrate deeper into local communities by having more kitchens there and amplifying the impact further in those areas.


Alongside the Foundation aims to focus on an overall comprehensive development program that includes water, school infrastructure and sanitation-health facilities for these children, so that the community is impacted in a much better manner. They also believe in realising every little dream by connecting the mentors and mentees together for proper guidance. Their focus would also be on partnership programs in robotics, music etc. for an overall development of the child.



The kitchens at Akshaya Patra Foundation aim to feed 5 million children by 2025 so that they are educated, which would help them carve out a better future for themselves. The Foundation will strive to reach every child at the grass-root level of the society for a balanced well being.

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Abhisikta Dey Ghosh is a business research and content professional for the last 14 years with leading brands from the industry. Her interest lies in authoring and weaving stories to foray into people's mind and hearts, thereby creating an ever lasting impact. Brand creation and management have been her forte using few magical words supported by language. A Master's Degree in Finance and Marketing with a passion for literature and language has certainly given her a huge platform to merge her educational expertise with passion, par excellence. Currently Abhisikta works as a Senior Consultant for Strategic Content and Research with Corporates, Edu-tech firms, CSR Foundations, Travel companies and Fintech majors. Abhisikta has a keen interest in music, dance and going on family adventure trips.


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