New Delhi: On 11 November 2000, twenty years ago, The Akshaya Patra Foundation’s first kitchen was inaugurated by the then Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Murli Manohar Joshi, and the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri S. M. Krishna. Today, Akshaya Patra is commemorating two decades of making a positive impact on the lives of children by providing them hot, nutritious, hygienic and tasty mid-day meals.
As Akshaya Patra enters its third decade of service, several eminent personalities congratulated the Foundation and shared their words of encouragement. Mr. Sunil Gavaskar commended Akshaya Patra for completing 20 years of wonderful service, providing mid-day meals to India’s children and gave his best wishes for the future. Mr. Ravi Shastri praised the organisation for reaching out to millions of children across the country and serving over 320 crore meals since 2000. Mr. Kapil Dev was very appreciative of the Foundation’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic and thanked the organisation for looking after the country and the needy ones.
As the implementing partner of the Government of India’s flagship school feeding programme, the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme, Akshaya Patra serves over 1.8 million children in 19,039 Government and Government-aided schools across 12 states and two union territories. Through the programme, the Foundation strives to address the issue of classroom hunger and promote education in the country.
Akshaya Patra is committed to the responsibility of serving wholesome mid-day meals to children. It has been working with the Government of India, State Governments and UT Administrations to implement the MDM Scheme and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Anganwadi feeding programme since the last two decades. It has also started a breakfast programme in Tamil Nadu on a pilot basis. In addition, the Foundation’s UK Chapter has adopted the centralised kitchen model to provide an affordable, scalable solution to child holiday hunger—each meal served in the UK will sponsor a meal for a child in India.
The organisation’s strategic investment in infrastructure and resource mobilisation over the years has added to its efficiency and effectiveness. By leveraging technology to set up state-of-the-art kitchens, it has added to the scale, sustainability and replicability of important feeding programmes like the MDM Scheme and ICDS, thus maximising their impact.
Furthermore, Akshaya Patra has repeatedly demonstrated its responsibility towards society. It has endeavoured to use the spare capacities of its kitchens to aid the Government’s subsidised food programmes for people from low-income groups, such as daily wagers and rickshaw pullers in Rajasthan. Similarly, it has come forward to utilise its kitchen infrastructure and resources across the country to provide people with much-needed food and nutrition security during crises on multiple occasions.
With the schools currently closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation is currently undertaking food assistance to aid the Government’s efforts to provide relief to vulnerable communities. It is working with the Government to provide food relief to vulnerable communities in 18 states and 2 UTs with the proactive support of its donors. Over 100 million meals have been served since March 2020 in the form of freshly cooked food and food relief kits with essential groceries. Akshaya Patra is proactively working with the Government and donors to ensure nutrition support to MDM beneficiaries by providing Happiness Boxes. Besides nutrition, these boxes also focus on hygiene and education with their contents ranging from glucose biscuits and ragi flour to colour pencils and activity books.
Akshaya Patra has become one of the most appreciated public-private partnerships in the development sector. The Foundation’s biggest strength has been its ability to effectively harness the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model by bringing the Government, corporate houses and philanthropists on the same platform to address a social cause on a massive scale.
Speaking on the important occasion, Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa, Chairman, Akshaya Patra, said, “We are deeply honoured to complete 20 years in service of children providing them nutritious mid-day meals as an incentive to come to school. I have personally met many of these children as well as their families and heard from them what this meal means to them.” He further added, “I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India, and all the State Governments and UT Administrations for giving us the opportunity to serve the children. We are very deeply thankful to all the non-executive trustees for their various contributions, including their guidance in the implementation of the highest standards of good governance practices in the Foundation. We are also immensely grateful to our corporate partners, individual donors and volunteers for their continued support to all our endeavours, from the MDM Programme to relief feeding initiatives.”
Akshaya Patra’s mission is to reach 5 million children by 2025. The organisation will strive to enhance its initiatives with solutions focusing on food and nutrition security for children and implement innovative solutions to supplement welfare programmes to contribute to their health and well-being. It has already introduced the National Endeavour for Student Transformation (NEST), a series of initiatives going beyond the meals and focusing on the holistic development of children. These include a school rejuvenation programme, which strives to provide a conducive environment for children through a series of infrastructural and academic interventions, Giving Every Dream a Chance mentorship initiative to train children in their field of interest, and AVSAR scholarship programme to provide financial aid to deserving students.
Awards and recognitions like the Padma Shri, Gandhi Peace Prize, National Award for Child Welfare, BBC World Service’s Global Food Champion and Outlook Poshan Special Jury Award stand testimony to Akshaya Patra’s efforts towards the well-being of children and communities. It will continue to keep children and communities central to all its endeavours and strive to contribute to their food and nutrition security to the best of its abilities.