Akshaya Patra Serves 20 Crore Meals Aiding the Government’s COVID-19 Relief Efforts to Help the Vulnerable
New Delhi: Undertaking COVID-19 relief feeding across the country, The Akshaya Patra Foundation has cumulatively served over 20 Crore (200 million) meals to vulnerable populations, such as migrant population, daily-wage labourers, industrial workers, rough sleepers, etc. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, the Foundation has been utilising its kitchen infrastructure and resources to aid the Government’s humanitarian efforts. It is working with the Government of India, State Governments, UT Administrations, civic bodies, corporate partners and individual donors to extend food relief in multiple locations across 21 states and four Union Territories (UTs).
In its capacity as the implementing partner of the Government’s flagship school feeding programme, the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme, Akshaya Patra has built an extensive network of kitchens across 13 states and one UT. The kitchen network enables it to reach out to over 1.8 million children every school day. With schools closed to contain the pandemic outbreak, the Foundation utilised its kitchen network to serve vulnerable populations. In states where Akshaya Patra does not have a presence, relief feeding was initiated from the nearest kitchen in the neighbouring state.
Cooked meals were prepared at Akshaya Patra kitchens and delivered to relief feeding centres assigned by the authorities as well as slums, hospitals, crematoriums and other public spaces, where they were served to people in need. Akshaya Patra simultaneously endeavoured to enhance its execution capabilities to start grocery kits distribution as a need-based solution to serve families from vulnerable communities, who were unable to access food with containment measures in place. Different variants of grocery kits were designed, each catering to the needs of a specific group. For instance, there was the Essential Grocery Kit with dry ration for 42 meal servings and Family Happiness Kit with dry ration for 120 meal servings; the latter contained groceries as well as educational supplies for a family of four—two adults and two children.
As children were unable to come to school, the Happiness Kits initiative was an attempt to work with the government to take education and nutrition to their doorstep. These kits focused on the needs of MDM beneficiary children during the pandemic and thus, contained dry ration for 20 meal servings plus basic hygiene products and educational supplies.
Akshaya Patra also conducted incentivised vaccination drives to help overcome vaccine hesitancy among marginalised groups. After taking the vaccine shot, individuals were provided refreshments (juice, water and a banana/khichdi) as well as a unique customised kit called ‘Raksha Kit’, containing essential groceries for 21 meal servings. Over 1 Lakh people were vaccinated in Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai.
On a pilot basis, the Foundation distributed Shakti Kits to pregnant women and nursing mothers in Raichur and Yadgir districts of Karnataka. These districts are among the 115 districts chosen for the ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ initiative launched by the Hon’ble PM, Shri Narendra Modi earlier this year.
As of 15th November, Akshaya Patra has cumulatively served over 20.09 Crore meals, which include 9.37 Crore cooked meals, 15.17 lakh essential grocery kits (6.28 Crore meal servings), 17.37 lakh Happiness Kits (3.47 Crore meal servings), 69,269 Family Happiness Kits (83 lakh meal servings), 43,935 Raksha Kits (9.22 lakh meal servings) and 8,000 Shakti Kits (3.36 lakh meal servings).
When special Shramik trains were arranged so that migrants can go back to their hometowns. Akshaya Patra served over 1.41 lakh Meals-on-the-Go kits to passengers in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad to help them on their journey. Starting from 12 April, 2021, over 70,000 water bottles and 20,000 packets of biscuits were distributed at the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) in Mumbai with the help of local NGO partners.
In this endeavour, Akshaya Patra received the proactive support of its corporate partners and individual donors. Several organisations came forward to contribute to the relief feeding endeavour. These include Amazon, Cargill, Cipla Foundation, CISCO, Deutsche Bank, DLF Foundation, EY Foundation, Genpact, Goldman Sachs, HT Parekh Foundation, Huawei, Infosys Foundation, LG Electronics, Nestle India, PepsiCo Foundation, Swiggy and Vivo. The Foundation also received in-kind support for the endeavour from various entities, including Britannia and Epigamia.
It also received the support of motivated volunteers who selflessly came forward. These include volunteering groups, such as Inspiring Indians and Corona Warriors, as well as corporate volunteers from several organisations, including the Infosys Foundation and Biocon.
Speaking about these efforts, Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa, Chairman, The Akshaya Patra Foundation, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented crisis that has affected everyone, especially people from vulnerable groups, such as daily-wagers, labourers and even children. With the valuable support of various government agencies and civil service organisations at all levels across the country, we were able to complement the humanitarian relief efforts by serving 20 crore meals. We have been humbled by the government’s support to enable this endeavour. All along, we also had the proactive support of our corporate partners, individual donors and well-wishers for this initiative. It has been a privilege to serve people in these times of adversity. If we have reached this milestone of serving over 20 crore meals today, it is because of the collective efforts of everyone involved. Together, we were able to ensure food and nutrition security to children and communities in these critical times. We are immensely grateful to the various Governments, corporate partners, individual donors, motivated volunteers and all our well-wishers for their continued support. Our efforts began with the hope that the situation will improve soon, and all along, were driven by the compounded enthusiasm and dedication of every individual involved.”
Since its inception, Akshaya Patra has strived to channelise the power of collective efforts for the wellbeing of children through the school feeding programme and communities through the relief feeding initiatives. Over the last two decades, these collective efforts have helped make the MDM Programme a trusted, respected and appreciated public-private partnership in the social sector. In the last 40 weeks, the Foundation has drawn upon the same efforts to undertake relief feeding at a scale, using its kitchen infrastructure across the country to address the food security crisis triggered by the pandemic.
With schools slowly reopening in different parts of the country, Akshaya Patra is prepared for the resumption of the school feeding programme. The Foundation is aware of the need to resume the programme in a safe manner. Operations have resumed in six states (Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Assam) with all the necessary precautions. The entire staff is fully vaccinated and instructed to strictly follow the necessary safety measures during cooking, packing and delivery of food to schools.