Beneficiaries of Akshaya Patra speak about the mid-day meals served by the Foundation in their schools and the dishes they like best.
or everyone living in Karnataka, the first day of November is a holiday. This day, known as Kannada Rajyotsava, symbolises the birth of Karnataka. In other words, it was the day Karnataka was formed back in 1956. So, how did this occasion come to be?
Here’s a quick look at this historic day and what it is all about.
On November 1, 1956, all the Kannada-speaking states of southern India were amalgamated to form a new state. This entity was originally called Mysore, but the name was too reminiscent of the princely state of yore, which was why the name was changed to ‘Karnataka’ on November 1, 1973.
Kannada Rajyotsava is celebrated with much gusto across the state. The red and yellow colours of the Karnataka flag fill the streets and the flag is hoisted at important locations, while the state anthem, Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate composed by the great poet Kuvempu, is sung. The boundaries of religion, age, caste, gender and income blur, as the state unites to celebrate its formation. The occasion is a tribute to the state of Karnataka and celebrates its glory – from the notable progress it has made, to its ongoing development.
On this day, the State Government confers the Rajyotsava Award upon eminent citizens, who have adorned Karnataka with the jewels of their noteworthy achievements; Akshaya Patra’s Chairman, Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa, received Rajyotsava Award in the year 2003.
The Akshaya Patra Foundation is delighted to have started its journey in this very state in Bengaluru, in the year 2000, by serving meals to children in five schools in the city. Currently, we provide nutritious mid-day meals to children in five cities across Karnataka – Bengaluru, Hubballi, Mangaluru, Mysuru and Ballari, via its six centralised kitchens. In Karnataka alone, we feed 5,09,252 children in 2,841 Government and Government-aided schools every day.
On this wonderful occasion of Kannada Rajyotsava, the Foundation thanks the state where it was born and expresses its heartfelt gratitude to the Government of Karnataka for all the support it has extended. It also thanks its numerous donors and corporates, who have generously contributed to its cause of unlimited food for education.
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.
Indian NGO Akshaya Patra is globally acknowledged for its noble cause of eradicating hunger and poverty from the country. The organization has been successful in bringing about a positive change in the lives of many. It works towards eliminating hunger-related needs of primary school children because the NGO believes that the fight against illiteracy cannot be fought with an empty stomach. Its central objective is that ‘No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger.’ On an average, the organization provides mid day meals to around 1.4 million children every day. It aims at reaching around 5 million children by the year 2020.
Akshaya Patra has been well acknowledged for its noble cause in the form of various prestigious awards and titles. It has garnered great feedback for its impeccable services which is well evident from Akshaya Patra online reviews. The organization firmly believes that nutrition and education play a major role in transforming the lives of children struggling to survive against all odds. The ‘Stories of Hope’ section highlights the commendable services of Akshaya Patra and holds a mirror to how it is effective in serving mid-day meals to the students. Badal, a ten year old student of the Khadipada Primary School, Puri, Odisha has been a beneficiary of the Mid-Day Meal programme for five years. When asked about the Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal program and his favorite dish, Badal said that Kheer (an Indian sweet dish) is his favorite dish and he is quite fond of having other items too. He further appreciated the Mid-day meal programme stating that it should be there as it helps children.
Akshaya Patra, a globally acknowledged nonprofit organization strives to eliminate the ills like like child Malnourishment, deficiencies of calories and other essential nutrients, child mortality and illiteracy in India. With the vision of serving the underprivileged sections of the society, the organization aims that ‘No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger.’ In a short span of time, Akshaya Patra Foundation has garnered considerable success in eliminating hunger and poverty and is considered as one of the most effective NGOs.
Akshaya Patra is looking for passionate, motivated and dedicated youth activists who are willing to work for the noble cause and expand the reach of Akshaya Patra. The junior and high school students living anywhere in the United States are eligible to apply for this voluntary role. It is a great opportunity for the young leaders to develop new skills and enhance their leadership, networking and public presentation skills. The voluntary efforts can bring about a major change in the lives of over 1.4 million unprivileged children in India.
The role of the youth ambassador includes making presentations to motivate and enroll new donors and help Akshaya Patra build a grassroots movement in the US. It also involves using virtual classrooms to learn skills in public speaking, networking, donor cultivation and fundraising. The goal of $1800 is set for the youth ambassador to be considered as a graduate. The application procedure for Admission is on a rolling basis and the applicants can apply any time. The Virtual youth ambassador academy provides an opportunity to enhance one’s skills with the training on all the qualities and essentials for becoming a successful Ambassador for Akshaya Patra. Community service credit, references and letters of recommendation are provided to the qualifying graduates along with the opportunity to participate in a service trip to Akshaya Patra’s school meal program in India.
India is one of those countries which unfortunately stand high on the ranking index when it comes to social devils like malnutrition among children; World Bank concluded this on the basis of a survey. We have highest number of underweighted children and that’s too below the age of three, in spite of 50% growth in GDP since last century. The number is so huge in India that our contribution of malnourished children is one third in total of this population all over the world which is half the root cause of the child mortality rate.
Government is trying its best but it’s still lagging behind in implementing the effective-efficient schemes. Akshaya Patra Foundation is such a non-profit organization which is following the path of one of the schemes of government of India, i.e. midday meal and working towards providing the essential nutrients to more than 11 lakh school children in almost a dozen states across the nation on daily basis. Akshaya Patra is working with the motive “no child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger”, of its existence on this planet. The organization mainly focuses on those schools where children who belong to underprivileged sector of society enroll themselves.
Recently on the Independence Day, a food ordering and delivering company based out of Bangalore named Swiggy, decided to contribute fifteen rupees from its every order to Akshaya Patra Foundation, which comes out to be covering cost of food for 200 school children. They also encouraged their customers this Independence Day to come forward and order food, this time not only for themselves but indirectly help in providing a day’s meal to a child who is fighting against hunger right now.