The Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF), a not-for-profit that provides mid-day meals in government schools, was started by Iskcon (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) with the aim of eliminating hunger. The organization, which works in partnership with government agencies with support from individuals as well as companies, is among the highest recipients of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds.
Akshaya Patra served about 290 million meals in FY16 with an expenditure of about Rs278 crore, as per provisional accounts. One meal cooked in a centralized kitchen costs around Rs7.50-8.00, excluding infrastructure costs. As of May 2016, Akshaya Patra was feeding 1.5 million children daily at 24 locations across 10 states. With 1,463 corporate organizations extending support in fiscal 2016, Akshaya Patra had raised more than Rs170 crore as of June 2016. In an interview, Akshaya Patra chairman Madhu Pandit Dasa shares his views on the benefits of corporate support.
What role do CSR funds play for the meal programmes?
For us, CSR is rather new. We have always had corporate support because of our stringent, diligent and transparent systems, which let the donors know where the money is going.
Following the CSR rules implementation in 2014, has the foundation seen a spike in corporate funding ?
Yes. The organization has witnessed a steady increase in (contributions from) corporate foundations and even more so over the last couple of years. In 2011, APF received Rs46.53 crore from corporates and Rs66.5 crore from individuals. For the same categories in FY14 it received over Rs59 crore and around Rs14 crore, respectively.
What are the benefits of corporate support?
Scale and expansion. A single kitchen, which feeds 1 lakh students, needs Rs18 crore investment including vessels, ingredients, cooking implements and vehicles for transportation. Such investment is not possible based solely on individual donations.
Why do you feel companies have shown such high interest in supporting APF?
The main reason for high corporate support right from the start is the fact that we have an open book policy regarding our accounts. Apart from the transparency and high accountability, we have attempted to incentivize donors though different mechanisms. For example, the foundation offers a utilization certificate, which enables organizations and individual donors to trace where exactly the money has been used.