The Akshaya Patra Foundation is actively engaged in the ‘mid day meal’ initiative started for the noble cause of feeding millions of school going children in India. The motivating force which triggered the setting up of this program is the Spiritual leader His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who while in Calcutta saw a group of children fighting with street dogs over scraps of food. From this minor, yet heart breaking incident, came the determination that no one within a ten mile radius of Hare Krishna Group center should go hungry. The Akshaya Patra program had a simple vision: “No child in India should be deprived of education because of hunger”. Because of India’s enormous population, this was a challenging vision difficult to be realized.
In June 2000, the Akshaya Patra mid-day meal program was started in Bangalore by feeding 1500 children in 5 schools. At that time there was no State run school meal program in Karnataka. Within a few short weeks hundreds of requests were received from teachers who expressed the dire need of such a scheme. Akshaya Patra recognized the need for midday meal programs in other parts of the country and expanded the program to other areas. In August 2003, it opened a kitchen in Vrindavan, in northern India.
In July 2004, it began a midday meal program in Hubli-Dharwad. By November 2004, Akshaya Patra had also commenced a pilot program in 25 schools feeding 5,200 children in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
As the urban operations grew, Akshaya Patra recognized that in order to reach the majority of India’s most undernourished children; it also needed to serve the rural districts. In August 2005, Akshaya Patra began services in the region of Baran, located in east Rajasthan, in response to the number of starvation deaths in the area. Neither the government nor Akshaya Patra was able to serve these communities adequately on its own, but as partners, their mutual goal was achievable.
Today, the Foundation extends its mid day meal facilities in the following states: Karnataka, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Andhra Pradesh. It is a fluent demonstration of public-private partnership as it is run with part subsidies from the Government, besides financial support from corporates, individuals and philanthropists. AC Nielsen, an independent research firm, performed an impact assessment in 2010, measuring key indicators such as enrolment, attendance and health. The study demonstrated an increase in enrolment, especially among the female students, and better health and improved performance among all students who received school lunches.