A 2005 survey conducted in Baran district brought to fore the considerable presence of malnourished children in the area. As the population belonged to low-income nomadic tribes they were constantly on the move in search of employment which made their children forgo education. The presence of a mid-day meal kitchen was crucial and at the same time challenging. The terrain and poor road connectivity were posing hurdles in constructing a centralised kitchen unit of Akshaya Patra. That is when Akshaya Patra team came up with the idea of setting up decentralised kitchen. Baran became the first decentralised kitchen of Akshaya Patra.
With the support and approval from the village Sarpanch (head of the village), Akshaya Patra hired local women to form Women Self Help Groups. The Foundation trained these groups on cooking nutritious food, hygiene practices and following food safety measures while preparing mid-day meals for children. This set forth the momentum of service in Baran district in 2005. This year on the 25th of April Baran celebrated its 10 years of service to children and women too. It was a celebration of decade long joy, achievement and satisfaction of transforming thousands of lives.
The Baran kitchen was exemplary in terms of service because it not only served meals to children but also engaged women folk as permanent employees. It was observed that many of the school students were the children of the kitchen employees itself. This was a strong factor that motivated the cooks to prepare meals in a hygienic and nutritious way for all the children. The permanency of their job allowed their children to attend school regularly and they no more lived as migrant workers.
Agreed to the fact that challenges were a part of setting up this kitchen but the existence of it for the past 10 years is a testimony of the trust an fulfilling relationship Akshaya Patra has had with the employees, children and residents of Baran district. Today Akshaya Patra feeds 9,855 children across 101 Government schools in the region and employs 215 women in its decentralised kitchen. It also provides nutritional support to 1,695 infants across 48 Anganwadi centres in the region.
Kudos to all the employees and supporters at Baran for their unflinching commitment throughout 10 years of service!
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