How it began
All this while, we have been reading inspirational studies about little kids who are able to build their dreams mainly due to the free mid day meal that they get from The Akshaya Patra Foundation. Now let’s take a peek into how this entire programme that feeds 1.3 million children in our country came about. Let us get an insight into how the idea of a mid-day meal programme grew in leaps and bounds to become The Akshaya Patra Foundation.
While on a recent visit to the first five schools that The Akshaya Patra Foundation started serving at, we met Venu Vadana Gopal Das, the individual who went in search of schools that required the free mid day meal facility. “Once the idea was conceptualised, I was asked to go explore surrounding areas in Bangalore and find out about the need for a mid day meal programme. I knew that the outskirts and rural areas will be our prime targets. I visited Government schools in areas like Peenya, Chikkabidarakally and Makali and was moved by the plight of the kids there” he reminisced.
“Then we approached these schools and recorded the attendance and started serving. It was just five schools that Akshaya Patra Foundation served at in the beginning. It was on 3rd July, 2000 that we first fed to these schools; a total of 1500 children,” he said.
When asked about the major challenges that Akshaya Patra Foundation faced in the beginning, Venu Vadana Gopal Das said, “Our main challenge was the lack of vessels for rice and sambar, and a vehicle to transport the food. We had to hire transport vehicles from outside and send food from The Akshaya Patra Foundation. However, thanks to the support from the Government and also volunteers who donated generously and today we are able to feed 1.3 million children. Akshaya Patra Foundation hopes to feed all the children in our country and wipe out classroom hunger.”
The Akshaya Patra Foundation implements the mid-day meal programme under the aegis of Central Government and various State Governments. Though the principal role of Akshaya Patra Foundation is to provide mid day meal, yet it greatly emphasizes on education too. “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger” is the vision statement of the Akshaya Patra Foundation.
Currently, the total reach of Akshaya Patra Foundation can be witnessed in 19 locations of 9 states in India namely Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. On the whole the Akshaya Patra Foundation in India feeds in more than 9000 Government schools, every day.
Apart from the primary mid day meal programme, Akshaya Patra Foundation has also taken up other feeding initiatives like:
- Feeding expecting and lactating mothers
- Feeding in special schools
- Subsidized lunch for the economically backward
- Feeding runaway children
- Feeding in old-age homes
- Feeding the homeless
- Disaster relief
Social initiatives like after-class tuitions, life skills programme, community health camps, scholarship programmes, disaster relief and health check-up camps also find its place in the Akshaya Patra Foundation.The many positive impacts the mid-day meal programme has brought about are substantial. Increase in number of primary school enrolments, improved daily school attendance, better concentration and performance level of the children and visible decrease in school drop-out rate are the core areas of achievement of this programme. Through the implementation of the mid-day meal programme Akshaya Patra Foundation strives to counter the twin challenges of hunger and illiteracy.
The mission of Akshaya Patra Foundation is to feed 5 million children by 2020 and through the motto of “Unlimited food for education” Akshaya Patra Foundation is gradually treading towards nourishing the future of India.